NATO in Afghanistan: The Liberal Disconnect

NATO in Afghanistan: The Liberal Disconnect

NATO in Afghanistan: The Liberal Disconnect

NATO in Afghanistan: The Liberal Disconnect

Synopsis

The war in Afghanistan has run for more than a decade, and NATO has become increasingly central to it. In this book, Sten Rynning examines NATO's role in the campaign and the difficult diplomacy involved in fighting a war by alliance. He explores the history of the war and its changing momentum, and explains how NATO at first faltered but then improved its operations to become a critical enabler for the U.S. surge of 2009. However, he also uncovers a serious and enduring problem for NATO in the shape of a disconnect between high liberal hopes for the new Afghanistan and a lack of realism about the military campaign prosecuted to bring it about.

He concludes that, while NATO has made it to the point in Afghanistan where the war no longer has the potential to break it, the alliance is, at the same time, losing its own struggle to define itself as a vigorous and relevant entity on the world stage. To move forward, he argues, NATO allies must recover their common purpose as a Western alliance, and he outlines options for change.

Excerpt

The allies of the north atlantic treaty organization (NATO), along with partners, have for more than a decade been fighting a dogged and brutal war in Afghanistan. What was once a small security operation has become a major war effort involving, at its height in mid-2011, 131,000 troops from fortynine troop-contributing nations led by the United States. the war is dynamic and defies easy control and conceptualization. the allies have tinkered with various mission headers, such as counterterrorism, stabilization, and security assistance; in the end, settling on counterinsurgency, though transition to Afghan leadership has brought a new focus. the killing of Osama bin Laden, Al Qaeda’s leader, on May 2, 2011, is a victory of sorts, but it is now widely understood that outright campaign victory is off the books. the 2009–2011 International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) surge led by the United States hit the Taliban hard but was a prelude to transition and thus a strategy for drawing down force engagements and encouraging Afghan reconciliation and regional engagement. the end game will be difficult, and the outcome remains uncertain. Still, it is clear that the Atlantic Alliance must come to grips with the wider geopolitical lessons of a campaign that has accelerated a global power shift and revealed a deficit in the Alliance’s collective purpose.

During the Cold War, NATO’s purpose was easy to identify. Lord Ismay, NATO’s first secretary general, summed it up eloquently: nato is here to keep the Soviets out, the Americans in, and the Germans down. This was Europe- centric nato. But what is NATO’s purpose now that questions of security in Europe have evolved and integrate with security issues in other regions and indeed the world? This was a question already posed in the early . . .

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