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Sunday, 20 May 2012

In or out of Afghanistan? NATO’s future at stake

Two summits were held in the USA these days, but both were focusing on crisis regions. While the G8-Summit focused on Greece, the NATO-Summit in Chicago focused on Afghanistan. One question dominated the agenda: the date for withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The pressure is on all actors. French President Hollande announced to withdraw all French troops from Afghanistan this year, while the Obama administration claims cuts in the US defence budget; certainly an election campaign strategy. Nevertheless, at the present time there is only one strategy on which every NATO member and alliance partner agrees: costs saving.

In times of financial and economic crises everyone is cutting its defence spending, which includes a complete rethink of the Afghanistan commitment. The deadline for a complete withdrawal is already set: 2014.

One big defence project remains on the agenda, the missile defence system. But how does a security alliance want to develop and install a missile defence system against potential threats from any enemy region if its members and alliance partners are cutting their defence and military expenditures? However, the missile defence system is just a small part of NATO’s current dilemma in which the security patterns have changed, again.

With the Afghan war dragging on for more than 10 years now, and peace and stability in Afghanistan turning to a matter of impossibility, with the Taleban still going strong against the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and the Afghan National Army (ANA). If NATO withdraws from Afghanistan according to its own plan, it will mean two things:

First: Afghanistan will be overrun by the Taleban, the fragile regional stability will collapse and Afghanistan will be an Al Qaida stronghold once again.
And secondly: NATO will face a fundamental and existential credibility crisis. With an unfulfilled peace-implementing and peace-keeping mission in the records, NATO is facing its very first ultimate military defeat, which has to be defined as an unconditional surrender to the Taleban and to international terrorism.

It should be pointed out that a first decisive date will be the day after the US Presidential elections in November, when the world will know how US Foreign Policy will look like and which strategy it will implement. The current savings and cost cutting policy of President Obama will naturally not survive the 2012 Presidential elections, and it won’t take long until the Pentagon will receive extra funds for global security strategies, including the missile defence system.

However, this will probably not apply to the strategy of NATO members to pull back out of Afghanistan. Public support for ISAF equals zero, stability can only be imposed – on a low level – with ISAF forces, economic growth is only identified in the poppy production. Also, those who benefit from the presence of ISAF troops and foreign groups in Afghanistan will most likely be targeted by the Taleban; their lives will be at stake.

NATO will also be at stake, as soon as the first NATO countries pull back their troops. Causing a domino effect for all other ISAF countries, NATO will not only face its defeat in Afghanistan, but also its defeat as a transatlantic and global security alliance.

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