The fact that the Dutch were going home from AFG NLT 2011 - as they warned - has been a planning assumption at CDR Salamander.
What I didn't expect to be a major possibility was this.
Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende's coalition government collapsed on Saturday when the two largest parties failed to agree on whether to withdraw troops from Afghanistan this year as planned.
The fall of the government in the EU member country, just two days short of the coalition's third anniversary, all but guarantees that the 2,000 Dutch troops will be brought home this year and will eventually prompt new parliamentary elections.... and who is waiting in the wings?
Right-wing legislator Geert Wilders's Freedom Party, which has called for an end to the Afghan mission, could be the big winner at the next election.
Opinion polls tip the Freedom Party, campaigning on mistrust of the government and an anti-immigration ticket, to become the largest or second biggest party in parliament.Yes, a country the size of New Jersey with a population of 17 million is always good for some news.
This next line I don't agree with.
"A withdrawal will damage the reputation of the Dutch as a reliable partner that is willing and able to contribute to important military missions," said Edwin Bakker, a senior research fellow at the Clingendael Institute in The Hague.No, only if you had an unrealistic expectation of the Europeans and a lack of understanding of what is going on.
Though I am not happy to see them leave - or the Canadians - I do not begrudge either nation. Here is why.
The Dutch and the Canadian troops are actually useful. They have operated caveat free in the toughest parts of the country - unlike the Germans, Italians, and Spaniards; for starters. We have listed those nations in the past, hit the archives if you need a review.
The Dutch volunteered in the hope that the rest of Europe would join them. In essense, they blew their whistle, climbed out of the trench with a hearty, "Follow me!" call - only to find themselves in the middle of no-man's land alone, their European allies still hunkered down.
Same with the Canadians. Successive leftist governments left them with a military that was almost unusable for anything but semi-permissive peace keeping. They were within a FY of getting rid of their tracked armor. Their per-capita losses have been huge for a nation with such a pacifist core - remember back to WWI & II they didn't even have enough of a native officer corps to fill out their ranks. Canada did the best she could as well given her political and national limitations. Like the Dutch - I am sad to see them go - but I do not begrudge their service. They fought well - and though are leaving the field, I know why and am impressed that they lasted this long. Kind of like expecting militia to only take one volley of musketry before fleeing and watching them stand for three before running. Not happy - but impressed and knowing I got more than expected.
Enough love though - here is the bad part. Nations have known this was going to happen for the last few years. As these two major players head through the door - the next question is who will follow.
AFG will take the rest of this decade to get right - a much harder nut to crack than IRQ. As our allies leave, and as long as budgets, global challenges, and lack of strategic patience don't upset the equation - Uncle Sam will be able to step into the breach.
Dank u en tot ziens.
UPDATE: Micheal Yon goes Salamander on NATO here, here, and here.
NATO has become a contrived vehicle used by freeloading nations to exert unearned influence. The NATO press machine is a transparent propaganda monster. To whit, this statement on the NATO website: "NATO looks forward to deepening cooperation with Pakistan:
The Pakistani Minister of Foreign Affairs, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, visited NATO and met with Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. Minister Qureshi also addressed the North Atlantic Council."It is all that and less/more. The self-delusional nature of much of what NATO does is the worst kept secret for those who have been involved with it.
Which NATO member actually has an iota of influence with Pakistan? The United States. NATO members freeload and forward their economic and political agendas at our cost. Secretary Gates, as well as Generals Petraeus, McChrystal and others, must spend substantial time simply trying to persuade members to contribute their share (which not a single member has done).
The staggering weight of NATO lies on its website: "Operation Moshtarak - Operation Moshtarak is an Afghan-led initiative to assert government authority in the centre of Helmand province. Afghan and ISAF partners are engaging in this counter- insurgency operation at the request of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Helmand provincial government." What "ISAF partners"? Those partners are nearly entirely British and American. The operation is in no way led by Afghans. NATO is a platform used by remora members to hitch rides on.
I will repeat again; all you really need to do is look at what they spend on defense as a % of GDP, but the Europeans and Canada are content to let the USA do most of the spending and dying in support of the West. We need to pull everyone back from Europe - all maneuver forces specifically - except for a few joint/combined logistics/training bases. You know the rest.