Thursday, December 13, 2007

SECDEF Puts NATO on notice

NATO has been officially in charge of Afghanistan for over a year now. In a classic, "If you are going to talk the talk, now walk the walk" moment, NATO was given the chance to prove that it is more than an exercise club and collection of US auxiliaries.

Sure, even though the military head of NATO,
Gen Craddock, and the Commander for NATO's operations in Afghanistan, COM ISAF Gen. McNeill, are all US Army; make no mistake - ISAF is a NATO operation.

Things have degenerated into four different operations though. The different Regional Commands (RC) were designed to break things up into manageable chunks (and to give more non-US GOFOs billets), but they are now running pretty much on their own timetable, ROE, and goals.
This not only violates the "unity of command" requirement for victory, but also results in delusional behavior on some nations' part where they just cannot think of doing what an Army must do now and then. (A perfect example is the final retaking of Musa Qala - a year after a British general "negotiated" peace with the Taliban - Taliban read that as surrender and acted accordingly. RC (W) and RC(N) has that attitude in spades.

You have a US led operation in RC(E), a CAN/GBR/NLD led operation in RC(S), a German led operation in RC(N), and a Italian/Spanish led operation in RC(W). Things are not going well.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates sharply criticized NATO countries yesterday for not supplying urgently needed trainers, helicopters and infantry for Afghanistan as violence escalates there, vowing not to let the alliance "off the hook."

Gates called for overhauling the alliance's Afghan strategy over the next three to five years, shifting NATO's focus from primarily one of rebuilding to one of waging "a classic counterinsurgency" against a resurgent Taliban and growing influx of al-Qaeda fighters.
He means, "We won't automatically do what you refuse to any more."
The defense secretary's public scolding of NATO, together with equally forceful testimony yesterday by Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, put on display the growing transatlantic rift over the future of the mission in Afghanistan. The Bush administration over the last year has increasingly bristled at what it sees as NATO's overly passive response to the Taliban, but European leaders have repeatedly rebuffed entreaties by Gates and President Bush to do more.

In recent months, officials said, Bush and his advisers have grown more concerned about the situation in Afghanistan; in contrast to Iraq, violence is on the rise there and the U.S.-led coalition is struggling to adjust to changing conditions on the ground. As the White House reviews its Afghanistan policy, officials have concluded that wide-ranging strategic goals set for 2007 have not been met, despite tactical combat successes.
It is getting worse because the Continental Europeans want, on balance, to fight the war they want to fight, not the one they have.
The United States provides about 26,000 troops in Afghanistan and has the lead combat role in the eastern part of the country, and U.S. Special Operations forces operate throughout the country. NATO provides most of the remaining 28,000 foreign troops, and British, Canadian, Australian and Dutch forces play key combat roles in southern Afghanistan, where violence has surged over the past year.

Bush extended the deployment of one brigade and sent another additional brigade to Afghanistan earlier this year to get a handle on the situation. But senior U.S. military officials have privately voiced concern that Afghanistan is regressing under a NATO command they describe as dysfunctional. If the United States wants success there, they have said, it may have to increase its military commitment again.

"How long do we continue to watch this thing?" asked one senior official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "There is a desire to keep the heat on NATO and see if they will pony up the resources." But he added: "If they aren't willing to do that," the United States may have to change its policy.
The anon fella is talking about "re-Americanizing" the ISAF operation, i.e. taking it back from NATO because they simply cannot do what needs to be done to win - from either a numbers or strategic standpoint. If the USA does that, NATO as we know it is dead. Sometimes I don't think our allies have recognized that we will kill NATO to win Afghanistan.
Gates later qualified his criticism by praising British, Canadian and Australian forces, which he said have "more than stepped up" in combat roles. "We should not use a brush that paints too broadly in terms of speaking of our allies and friends," he said.
Exactly. I would throw in the Dutch, Estonians, Poles, and Danes. Oh, and remember counter-insurgency 101 - the thingy about the primary importance of police?
One of the most pressing needs in Afghanistan is for about 3,500 additional trainers for the Afghan police, a force that Gates said suffers from "corruption and illiteracy." Because the European Union did not come through, he said, the United States has had to divert some U.S. trainers from the Afghan army to the police. Mullen confirmed that the United States has approved an increase in the manpower goal of the Afghan army from 70,000 to 80,000, creating a need for the additional U.S. trainers.

"The European effort on the police training has been, to be diplomatic . . . disappointing," Gates said.

In a separate interview, one senior military official pointed to a vivid symbol of the disappointment over NATO's unfulfilled promises. Behind the desk of U.S. Gen. Dan K. McNeill, who commands the ISAF in Afghanistan, is a framed matrix showing all the countries that have offered to provide security and other resources in Afghanistan, with the significant gaps highlighted in color.

"It isn't pretty, and it isn't changing," one official said of the chart. "What's the problem? We're looking for trainers."
They know they have been put on report. Good.

If you want to see who is who in the ISAF zoo. Though a few months old, click here and here for an overview.

MTH, let us know what you see on the ground - if you can.
UPDATE: Speaking of Musa Qala - ninme has some more.

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