My column in the World Politics Review this week is full of depressing observations on NATO:
[The] Libya intervention demonstrated that the militaries of non-U.S. NATO nations have not invested in an appropriate amount of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms or in in-flight refueling capabilities. Virtually all of the targeting and air tasking orders were provided by the United States, which also had to provide much of the ammunition once the allies simply ran out. In addition, a recent report by the Royal United Services Institute notes that up to 85 percent of the fuel for the air campaign in Libya was provided by the U.S. Air Force.
Read more here.
Sec. Gates apparently lit into our NATO allies in a closed-door meeting yesterday, calling out Spain, Turkey and the Netherlands but most especially Poland and Germany for not pulling their weight in Libya. (Gates also praised Canada, Belgium and most especially Denmark and Norway.) Today, broader concerns about the NATO alliance dominated a must-read public speech full of real-talking:
The blunt reality is that there will be dwindling appetite and patience in the U.S. Congress – and in the American body politic writ large – to expend increasingly precious funds on behalf of nations that are apparently unwilling to devote the necessary resources or make the necessary changes to be serious and capable partners in their own defense. Nations apparently willing and eager for American taxpayers to assume the growing security burden left by reductions in European defense budgets.
Indeed, if current trends in the decline of European defense capabilities are not halted and reversed, Future U.S. political leaders– those for whom the Cold War was not the formative experience that it was for me – may not consider the return on America’s investment in NATO worth the cost. ...
It is not too late for Europe to get its defense institutions and security relationships on track. But it will take leadership from political leaders and policy makers on this continent. It cannot be coaxed, demanded or imposed from across the Atlantic.
From the perspective of many U.S. legislators and tax-payers, one of the reasons the states of Europe enjoy such nice social welfare programs is because the United States has effectively subsidized the continent's defense spending since 1989. A few weeks back, I was in a meeting with some representatives from one of our NATO allies, who warned me that if the United States moved troops out of Europe, European states would respond by only developing military organizations capable of operating in Europe and North Africa.
I responded that would be a real improvement!
Currently, the European states seem unable to carry out mid-sized military operations independently. In Libya, the United States is flying 75% of both in-flight refueling and reconnaissance missions -- because the European states have not invested in either in-flight refueling or ISR platforms. Some Europeans are also unhappy the United States has sent its A-10s and A/C-130s home, because European states also lack the kind of slow-flying, fixed-wing platforms ideal for close air support -- hence the recent deployment of British rotary-wing attack helicopters.
This kind of reckoning between the United States and the states of Europe has been long overdue. Some European states have proven themselves serious about both the alliance and their own national defense. (I'm looking at you, Denmark.) Others have not. If Germans complain with justification that their workers subsidize Greek hair-dressers taking early retirements, it's perfectly fair for the United States to complain German workers enjoy comfy state benefits in part because U.S. tax-payers underwrite their national defense.
If you can get past the firewall or find a paper copy of the Financial Times today, do so in order to read Constanze Stelzenmüller's op-ed on what happened in Kunduz and the effect it's having in Germany. Among other things, it includes this peach of a sentence:
Moreover, in bombing the trucks (and, according to Nato, killing civilians), the Germans did exactly what they kept lecturing the Americans to stop doing, while the Americans are now lecturing us for doing what they used to do, but are no longer doing, at least in part because of our lecturing.
You often wonder what visiting dignitaries make of your country; American presidents must think that the whole world is in a constant state of riot. Wherever they go, CNN is full of angry banners, burning flags and tear gas. I went and joined the London riot. It was depressingly flabby, and half-hearted. Not so much a demonstration as a queue of arcane special pleading groups, ranging from anarchists for bicycles (who all waited politely at the traffic lights) and one-world vegans. Altogether, they looked like a collective of European street mimes.And:
The truth is that the French have never really got over being dumped at the altar of the “special relationship.” It should have been them. It was after all, the French who gave you the Statue of Liberty and the keys to the Bastille and who think Jerry Lewis is funny. What did the English ever give you? Muffins and a burnt White House.
Not that we couldn't have predicted this months ago. Just to put things in an even more depressing perspective, we are sending 4,000 more military trainers --- quite apart from the 18,000+ combat troops we are sending. And Europeans wonder why credible American commentators are calling for us to quit NATO. Kalam fadi...
Gordon Brown was the only one to offer substantial help. He offered to send several hundred extra British soldiers to provide security during the August election, but even that fell short of the thousands of combat troops that the US was hoping to prise from the Prime Minister.
Just two other allies made firm offers of troops. Belgium offered to send 35 military trainers and Spain offered 12. Mr Obama’s host, Nicolas Sarkozy, refused his request.
The derisory response threatened to tarnish Mr Obama’s European tour, which yesterday included a spellbinding performance in Strasbourg in which he offered the world a vision of a future free of nuclear weapons.
Mr Obama – who has pledged 21,000 more troops to combat the growing insurgency and is under pressure from generals to supply up to 10,000 more – used the eve of Nato’s 60th anniversary summit to declare bluntly that it was time for allies to do their share. “Europe should not simply expect the United States to shoulder that burden alone,” he said. “This is a joint problem it requires a joint effort.”
Barack Obama today won agreement for substantial Nato troop reinforcements in Afghanistan, when at least seven European nations, including Britain, said they would send extra troops and logistical help ahead of the presidential elections there in August.
The decision, made at a Nato summit in Strasbourg, will be a profound political relief for the US president, who badly needed to be able to show his domestic audience that his offer of a new style of parternship with Europe could reap tangible results.
The size of the overall temporary reinforcements, apart from those announced by America, was put at up to 5,000, including as many as 600 from Poland.
America and Britain have become increasingly frustrated at the unwillingness of the 28 Nato countries to commit troops to serious fighting against the Taliban in southern and eastern Afghanistan.
The British defence secretary, John Hutton, has said he is expecting a surge in Taliban activity in an attempt to disrupt the elections, the first test of Afghan democracy since 2004.
The countries agreeing to contribute further help, according to European diplomats, include Poland, Spain, Croatia, Greece and the Netherlands. Germany is expected to confirm that it will be sending extra troops to the largely peaceful north of Afghanistan for the election on 22 August.
France is sending a further 150 military police to help train an Afghan civilian police, arguing that last year it announced a large extra deployment.
Gates said something else in an interview with the FT that was also really interesting. As many of you know, my boss John Nagl, together with his BFF Sen. Joe Lieberman, has been calling for a dramatic expansion of the Afghan security forces. There is an objection, though, that I have aired on the blog, which worries the Afghan economy cannot sustain such a massive security apparatus. Gates, apparently, agrees with the dissenters:
“I have not seen the kind of effort that I would have hoped for in terms of European governments trying to persuade their people that attacks such as those that took place in Madrid and London . . . emanated from the Afghan-Pakistani border area,” Mr Gates said in an interview with the Financial Times. ...
“The British do a good job of making that case to their people, but on the Continent I have not seen that kind of effort,” he said. “This problem out there is as big a threat to the Europeans as it is to us.”
As the Obama administration debated its Afghanistan strategy, some officials argued for a doubling of the Afghan army and police to about 400,000. Asked whether the Afghan army would need to ultimately number 400,000-500,000 soldiers – as the US counter-insurgency doctrine crafted by General David Petraeus would suggest – Mr Gates said “I don’t know the answer to that”.
“I don’t think Afghanistan can sustain an army that size, and I don’t think the international community is prepared to pay to sustain an army that size.”
questioned the long-term viability of NATO, saying it was not providing the forces or capabilities needed to maintain its credibility as a military alliance.While the Brits, Dutch, and Poles undertake the majority of combat operations in the south (with the Danes, Estonians and Romanians contributing elsewhere),
Domestic opposition prevents German troops from taking on the Taliban, and Spanish and Italian soldiers in Afghanistan are restricted to non-combat roles. France only recently deployed combat troops to the south-east of the country.
It is an unavoidable fact that these sorts of caveats have a detrimental effect on the coherence of NATO's operations. According to the Telegraph, frustration with this situation has boiled over in the U.S., where
American officials are in a state of near despair about the failure of Britain's European allies to do more to beef up NATO combat power in Afghanistan.
A Pentagon adviser told The Telegraph that US commanders wish they had never agreed to NATO taking charge of major combat operations against the Taliban in the lawless south of the country.
The mistake was handing it over to NATO in the first place. For many countries being in Afghanistan seems to be about keeping up appearances, rather than actually fighting a war that needs to be won.
In the absence of an overall counterinsurgency strategy, what the international community and the Afghan government are doing is not designed to win the war, rather not to lose.
That is a major problem. There's no campaign plan. We need a unified command of all forces that can do three things: fighting, stabilising and peacekeeping. Unless you speak with one voice it is not going to work. We need more troops to stabilise the country.
The parliamentary mandate for German troops operating in Afghanistan is due to expire in October and Defence Minister Franz Josef Jung is expected to request an increase of at least 1,000 in the troop limit.