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The EU Military in Afghanistan
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I was listening to David Bosco, staff editor of Foreign Policy Magazine, on the Glenn Mitchell Show today, and he brought up an interesting point. He suggested that the reluctance of many EU countries to send troops to Iraq may be less about principles and more about sheer capacity and ability.

He pointed to Afghanistan to make the point. NATO only has about 6,500 troops in Afghanistan right now. France, for example, has only put 550 troops in the country, fewer troops than either South Korea or Romania sent to Iraq. For all this talk of dinky contributions of the coalition forces to Iraq, those EU members who supposedly wholeheartedly support our efforts in Afghanistan have contributed troops that are even dinkier by comparison.

This recent story, reprinted from the NY Times, notes:

Nearly a year after NATO agreed to expand its peacekeeping operations beyond this sprawling, mountain-ringed capital, the program is bogged down because member states are reluctant to send troops into the increasingly unstable countryside, NATO officers say.


The sluggish response to a gaping need - about 80 percent of Afghans live in rural areas beyond the reach of the current central government - has left the country open to increasingly powerful drug lords and, in some areas, resurgent Taliban forces. The NATO secretary-general, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, has warned that without greater resolve from its members the alliance risks failing in its first mission outside of Europe.

What's their excuse?

Yes, we've diverted resources to Iraq, but that doesn't excuse the Europeans from the measly military contribution in Afghanistan, does it?

NATO has been trying to expand their mission outside of Kabul, and establish protection for the Afghans throughout a larger area of the country, but member nations simply won't put forth the troops. Why?

This MSNBC story suggests an answer.

Most seriously, there are real signs that NATO, which President George W. Bush apparently hopes will take the handoff from America in Iraq sometime soon, is stumbling even to support a relatively small operation of 6,000 troops in Afghanistan.

“The Europeans in NATO, with the exception of the British, simply are not up to such missions anymore,” says Dan Goure, a military analyst with close ties to the Bush administration now with Washington-based Lexington Institute.

You might dismiss the guy quoted above as a shill, but it's entirely possible that he's correct. Otherwise, what's to explain items like this:

NATO’s Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, has expressed frustration about the alliance’s inability to supply a small number of helicopters and medical units to Afghanistan in spite of the fact that the request was made months ago. He told member states’ ambassadors that the mission was in danger of failure because of member nations’ failure to deliver resources and vowed to tackle the gap between alliance promises and performance at the upcoming NATO summit in Istanbul at the end of June.

Are EU members purposefully sabotaging efforts in Afghanistan out of protest for Iraq? But that would be a stupid, petty thing to do, wouldn't it? They did support the war there, didn't they? They do support our ongoing efforts there, don't they?

Perhaps it's as Bosco and Goure suggest, that they simply don't have the military capacity. Perhaps the fact is that we simply are alone when it comes to military power, that in any coalition, we would overwhelmingly be the primary force, and everybody else would simply be "window dressing", as opponents of Iraq have so delicately put it.

Now, to be fair, when it comes to monetary contributions, the EU seems to be living up to its pledges. According to this site:

Including contributions by Member States, the EU as a whole disbursed around €800 million in 2002 and over €900 million in 2003 for reconstruction and humanitarian aid to Afghanistan. At the Berlin conference in spring 2004, the EU updated its reconstruction pledge, committing $2.2 billion for the period 2004-2006.

That's good support, and greatly needed. But when it comes to actually putting boots on the ground, Europe either can't, or won't, contribute. Which is it, and why?

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