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03-27-09, 01:09 AM #1
The war in Afghanistan to become more American and less NATO
After years of often testy cooperation with NATO and resentment over unequal burden-sharing, the United States is taking unabashed ownership of the Afghan war.
President Obama's decision to deploy an additional 17,000 troops to Afghanistan this year will bring the number of foreign troops there to nearly 90,000, more than two-thirds of them Americans. Although many will technically report to NATO commanders, the U.S. force will increasingly be in charge.
Even as the U.S. military expands its control over the battlefield, the number of American civilian officials will also grow by at least 50 percent -- to more than 900 -- under the new Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy Obama will announce as early as tomorrow, according to administration officials. American diplomats and development experts plan to spread into relatively peaceful western and northern regions of Afghanistan that until now were left to other NATO governments. New U.S. resources and leadership also will be brought to bear over critical issues such as counter-narcotics efforts and strengthening local government institutions.
U.S. policy in Pakistan, a major component of the new strategy, is largely unilateral. The European Union has an aid and trade relationship with the country, but few European governments outside of Britain have strong involvement there.
In Afghanistan, the administration "will continue to characterize the effort as multinational. There will continue to be thousands of troops and people" from NATO and elsewhere, said a former senior Defense Department official with a lot of experience there. "But the center of gravity is going to shift toward the Americans."
Obama's national security team has taken pains to consult with allies as it has put the new strategy together. The Washington announcement, and the presentation Obama will make at an April 3-4 NATO summit in Europe, will emphasize shared threats and common purpose, officials said.
But the increasing U.S. dominance is both by default and by design. The United States has far more troops, equipment and money -- and more willingness to use them -- than the rest of NATO. Even before Obama took office, his holdover defense secretary, Robert M. Gates, had largely given up pressing the allies for more combat forces, with fewer restrictions on their activities.
Although European governments have been asked to send up to four additional battalions of 800 to 1,000 troops each to boost security for Afghan elections in August, they will be temporary additions. Britain, whose 8,000 combat troops make it the second-largest NATO contributor, is considering whether it can send more after its withdrawal from Iraq this year. Germany, the third largest, has authorized 4,500, although they are restricted from certain combat areas and duties; France fields nearly 3,000 unrestricted troops.
The Netherlands plans to end its 1,700-troop combat mission in Afghanistan next year; Canada will bring its 2,800 troops home in 2011. With the arrival of new forces this year, U.S. troops will number more than 55,000.
"It's great to have our allies here," a U.S. commander in Afghanistan said. "But we recognize that when crunchtime comes -- and that's what we're in right now -- we have to be the ones to step up and get it done."
"Crunchtime" arrived for Obama in a series of military, diplomatic and intelligence assessments warning that no time remains for the niceties of negotiating over who will do what in Afghanistan. Taliban attacks and both U.S. and NATO casualties rose last year to their highest levels of the war, now in its eighth year, and the numbers are expected to further increase this year.
"This is the new reality," the former Defense Department official said. "We tried the essentially decentralized approach, where every country kind of does its own area and does what it thinks is right. That has essentially fallen down. . . . We want our allies to still be there. We don't want NATO to fail. But in order for NATO to succeed, the U.S. has got to take the lead."
Rather than expecting more combat forces, the U.S. administration has asked the allies to tell it what more they can contribute in terms of financing, training for Afghan forces, and civilian experts in every sector, from agriculture to governance -- "essentially whatever you can give us to free up an American to do something else," the former official said.
The results of those entreaties remain to be seen. A NATO trust fund established last year to pay for equipment and transportation for Afghan security forces set a goal of about $1.5 billion; contributions to date total less than $25 million, Supreme Allied Commander Gen. Bantz J. Craddock told the Senate Armed Services Committee this week. Plans to double the size of the Afghan army to 134,000 by 2011 will require an additional 29 NATO training teams. "The U.S. provides them when NATO doesn't," Craddock said. American trainers outnumber their NATO counterparts three to one.
Because some NATO members restrict their troops to certain areas of the country, trainers often cannot move with redeployed Afghan forces, leaving U.S. forces to "pick up the responsibility" to transport the Afghans and their equipment from one region to another, Craddock said.
The Americanization of the war is visible in the turbulent south, where the regional NATO command, led by a Dutch general, with Dutch, British, Danish and U.S. troops, faces the primary Taliban threat. Most of the additional U.S. troops will deploy there, and dozens of C-130 transport aircraft land at the Kandahar air field every day with pallets of supplies. In a dusty parking lot not far from the main runway, more than 200 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, or MRAPs, await the supplementary U.S. troops. When they arrive, there will be more American personnel at the Kandahar base than at the current largest U.S. facility -- at Bagram, north of Kabul, the capital.
A British general will take over the southern command this fall, but U.S. and NATO military officials said they expect the No. 2 commander, U.S. Brig. Gen. John Nicholson, to be the real decision-maker.
"This will become an American headquarters," one non-U.S. military officer in southern Afghanistan said of Kandahar. "They're going to have almost three times as many troops as any other NATO member here. And that's going to mean they'll be in charge."
03-27-09, 09:49 PM #2
Apparently Obama is satisfied with leaving Iraq as a stinking, unfinished cesspool of terrorist hideouts. Hopefully Afghanistan will get enough attention to stand up to the extremist forces trying their hardest to tear it apart.
03-27-09, 10:00 PM #3
If you've been paying attention, Iraq isn't a stinking, unfinished cesspool of terrorist hideouts - largely because of the surge that Obama was against and still won't admit worked.
In this regard, I'll give the amateur some credit. We do need more troops in Afghanistan, and we do need to be in charge.... BUT...
The trouble is, he fails history every single time. We did so well there initially because we did it with special forces and ingenuity. If we try to go heavy, we will re-learn what the Russsians took ten years to learn with our hands in the pot.I'm your huckleberry...
Quemadmoeum gladis nemeinum occidit, occidentus telum est!
You can be the weapon, and the gun in your hand is a tool - or the gun is a weapon and you are the tool.
I was looking for a saint who was a devil of a lover,
but every girl I found was either one way or the other...
03-27-09, 10:10 PM #4
03-28-09, 12:51 AM #5
Afghanistan is a real puzzle for us right now. They have a huge drug production problem - we disapprove of course, not only because the drugs end up on our streets, but because the money funds the Taliban and other extremists in the region. However, taking away a major source of income for a huge part of the country is asking for the nation to collapse. Just like in Vietnam, anyone in a village could be working for or against us.
I think the best thing we could do for Afghanistan is improve their transportation infrastructure, pinpoint and remove the bad folks, search for alternative sources of income and employment, and import McDonalds, Starbucks and rock n roll. As bad as the last part sounds, I swear those places are like little US embassies. A little taste of America and everyone is hooked.
03-28-09, 02:37 PM #6
I agree with Virginian... small units work well in that enviroment because the enviroment is ideal for quick movements with small groups. Sure we could destroy the poppy fields and remove a large quantity of the opium that the world sees, but unless we teach the farmers to grow other crops or facilitate their technology into other lucrative means, we have created Viet Cong all over again.
With each area having a tribal leader or warlord, we have to handle them with kid gloves. I have several buddies that have worked hand in hand with many of these leaders and the results are usually what you see on the internet with the gunship videos and UAV clips.
More people wouldnt hurt, esp. in the larger built up areas. (Not that there are that many) Fix their infrastructure problems, give them reasons to work with the US and results will continue to come in. Blood runs very thick over there and if they use the US to avenge some slght or old feud, then so be it. Sometimes the ends justify the means."Sometimes people need a little help. Sometimes people need to be forgiven. And sometimes they need to go to jail."
03-28-09, 02:54 PM #7
"The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money."
- Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America
Tell me not, Sweet, I am unkind,
That from the nunnery
Of thy chaste breast and quiet mind
To war and arms I fly. - Lovelace
The opinions expressed by this poster are wholly his own, and should never be construed to even remotely be in representation of his employer, its agencies or assigns. In fact, they probably fail to be in alignment with the opinions of any rational human being.
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