Afghanistan was supposed to be the "good war" according to the Liberal Media Party, their Democratic Party affiliates, and our sometimes fickle and fair weather European allies. Western European powers like Germany and France that flatly refused to assist us on the Iraq project, saw themselves saving face by committing forces to the NATO operation in Afghanistan.
There's only one problem, NATO members have chronically fallen far short of their commitments in this vital War theater. Leander Schaerlaeckens at the Washington Times reports today on Secretary of Defense Robert Gates visit to NATO headquarters in Brussels to prod the Europeans to pull their weight in Afghanistan.
"Alliance spokesmen said several countries offered improved participation and cooperation in the mission at a recent conference in Brussels attended by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates. But a few countries seek to reduce their contributions to the effort - which is aimed at bolstering the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai against Taliban insurgents - and others are talking about withdrawing altogether.
"One NATO official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Mr. Gates is struggling to find more soldiers for the operation"
NATO reports that there are 35,000 troops taking part in International Security Assistance Force. Based on news reports, it appears that all NATO nations other than U.S. have contributed 12,000 troops to the cause. Excluding France, the NATO member coalition has a population of nearly 500 million and they can barely muster a single division. Not only that, many of the forces committed are restricted to non-combat assignments.
"Gates also asked European defense ministers to remove some of the so-called "caveats" that prohibit their troops from entering the most dangerous regions or participating in specified combat activities. Although the exact details of the caveats haven"t been disclosed, they are thought to restrict some countries' troops from flying at night, fighting in snow or even fighting at all. One senior U.S. defense official told Reuters news agency there is a total of 62 such restrictions."
Can't fight in the snow! Well that's helpful in a mountainous country like Afghanistan. All the insurgents have to do is run above the snowline for safe haven. Unfortunately, this problem has plagued this operation from the get go. In 2004, a much ballyhooed NATO summit in Turkey got everyone all excited that the "alliance" had agreed to expand its role in Afghanistan. After the media left the Summit with their self congratulatory headlines and soundbites, it turned out that the "expanded role" amounted to a measly 600 restricted troops and three helicopters. As Mark Steyn observed, this averaged out at 23.08 troops, plus almost a ninth of a helicopter apiece from each of the 26 NATO countries. And the helicopters all came from one country - Turkey!
The Liberal Media party and their Democratic party affiliate has constantly excoriated the Administration for failing to consult "allies" and conducting "cowboy diplomacy" that the far more sophisticated Democrats would change if the voters elect them. Our experience in Afghanistan exposes this as wishful and naive this thinking. We can't even get them to fight in the snow!