Afghanistan is NATO’s Test Case

The momentous 60th anniversary of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation will long be remembered as world leaders mull over a strategy to fight terrorism, and commit to a world free of nuclear weapons.

As a prelude, the European allies have seconded US President Barack Obama’s vision for more troops in Afghanistan, though somewhat reluctantly, and the summit can go a long way in building upon the understanding that Washington and Moscow have reached in scrapping their nuclear warheads. While Europe and NATO have been at the heart of rewriting a new security doctrine, the Strasbourg communiqué can send the right signals by addressing other vital issues such as economy and human trafficking, as well.

Strategising the coalition’s efforts, however, in Afghanistan will dominate the agenda at the annual NATO summit. The US, after having redrawn its war strategy, has been pushing for additional resources from its international coalition partners. Predictably, the NATO summit, besides the Afghan conflict, will also focus on Russia’s relationship with NATO that suffered a setback over the war in Georgia last year. It is also being marked by the return of France as a full member state of NATO’s integrated military structure, after a hiatus of more than four decades. The initial US attempts, urging the NATO member states to pledge more troops to Afghanistan, have not met with much success. The reason being: the coalition is polarised between the states that are willing to fight and those that are not willing to commit to further military engagement. This is mainly due to the intense domestic pressure at home. The US, meanwhile, has decided to boost its own forces to make up for what military strategists foresee as a ‘troop deficit’ -- to control an increasingly difficult insurgency.

Henceforth, the US forces are likely to gradually assume greater control of the coalition operations in Afghanistan, with larger US contingents to be deployed in the most troubled areas in the south, as well as to the eastern borders adjoining Pakistan’s tribal areas.

The NATO member states must, however, reiterate their commitment in other ways to support the war, which Obama says is a fight against the Al Qaeda, which poses an equal threat to the world community. In the words of the current NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, to CNN, “Afghanistan should not become President Obama’s conflict, but should become a collective, coordinated operation of all of us.” And NATO, on its 60th anniversary, should rise to the occasion and see to it that the menace of terrorism is eliminated, for making the world a better place to live in.

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