Monday, February 26, 2007

Britain expands NATO commitment

"LONDON - Britain's defense secretary on Monday announced the deployment of 1,400 extra troops to Afghanistan, bolstering NATO's mission to oust the resurgent Taliban only days after Prime Minister Tony Blair disclosed plans to trim British forces in Iraq."

Good and bad news in this. Good news: between this and the (tentative) Australian commitment, it looks like ISAF is going to get the troops it needs to help head off the expected standard Spring offensive by the Taliban. Bad news: like I've said previously, it seems that the same nations keep sending more troops to southern and eastern Afghanistan. There were some strong words from British Defense Secretary Des Browne:

"It is increasingly clear, that at present, when it comes to the most demanding tasks in the most challenging parts of Afghanistan, only a small number of key allies are prepared to step forward."


Browne acknowledged Britain, the United States and others were "shouldering a greater burden than we like" in leading the alliance's mission to tackle Taliban fighters and extend the reach of President Hamid Karzai's Kabul government.

But he told lawmakers that failing to deploy additional combat troops posed "too great a risk to progress achieved" so far by the mission."

Also some strong words from the Opposition side of things:

Opposition Conservative lawmaker Liam Fox said the failure of several NATO countries to match the commitment shown by Britain, the United States, Canada and the Netherlands, called the future of the alliance into question.

"If NATO is to exist and flourish in the future, this is not a tenable position," Fox told lawmakers during the session.

Not a tenable position indeed. What makes all this particularly galling is that it looks like Britain's new commitment will be used as a battalion sized QRF, so they will definitely be seeing a lot of action. And Australia's pending contribution? A large chunk will be SAS.

I think the conference in Seville earlier this month is going to be a watershed point in the history of NATO. The anger among the Americans, Canadians, British, and others with troops in harms way has been building, and the meeting at Seville was what might very well be the breaking point. Post Cold War NATO has always been rather tense at times (as anyone who has done a joint tour in Europe will attest to), but the squabbles over Allied Force, IFOR/SFOR, and KFOR in the Balkans are nothing compared to this. This is the first time (excepting France's unilateral withdrawal under de Gaulle, which doesn't really count) that a NATO member has simply flat out refused to allow its troops to fight in a NATO sanctioned action.

Simply unacceptable. This isn't a namby-pamby club like the EU. Either you're in NATO to fight, or you need to get the hell out.

Previous posts here and here.