Pentagon Considers Bolstering our Forces in Afghanistan

Is the NATO alliance falling apart?

In order to make up for a 7,000 troop shortfall thanks to NATO member nations refusing to allow their troops to engage in combat operations, the Pentagon is considering making up the deficit with our own already over-extended army:

They said the step would push the number of American forces there to roughly 40,000, the highest level since the war began more than six years ago, and would require at least a modest reduction in troops from Iraq.
The planning began in recent weeks, reflecting a growing resignation to the fact that NATO is unable or unwilling to contribute more troops despite public pledges of an intensified effort in Afghanistan from the presidents and prime ministers who attended an alliance summit meeting in Bucharest, Romania, last month.

The shortfalls in troop commitments have cast doubt on claims by President Bush and his aides that NATO was stepping up to provide more help in Afghanistan, where the government of President Hamid Karzai faces a resurgent threat from the Taliban and remnants of Al Qaeda.

The increasing proportion of United States troops, from about half to about two-thirds of the foreign troops in Afghanistan, would be likely to result in what one senior administration official described as "the re-Americanization" of the war.

The source of the story emphasizes that this plan is under consideration only and that no decision has been made to send the forces. But the problem is not going away nor are member nations of NATO in any hurry to make good on their pledges for more troops made at the Bucharest Summit last month.

The problem isn't necessarily more troops but rather allowing those troops already in country to participate in combat ops. Currently, every NATO country except Great Britain, the Netherlands and Canada have restrictions or "caveats" on the use of their troops that keeps them out of harms way. France has less than a thousand special forces who are allowed into combat while Germany has none. Germany and Italy have none. That leaves around 40,000 NATO troops who are training the Afhgan army and police or guarding vital posts in the rear like the airport in Kabul.

Analysts pretty much agree that this is the most serious crisis in the history of NATO. How the alliance performs in Afghanistan will reveal what the future holds of this, our most important and longest alliance.