Written By: Claude
Article Date: September 01, 2008
If he hasn’t already,
as President, Barack Obama will realise soon enough that the troops he
withdraws from Iraq will in all likelihood end up redeploying to
Afghanistan. And, a President McCain, will likewise be faced with the
reality that American forces may well end up staying in the region for
the next hundred years.
But, it won’t be
in Iraq. Whether itís President Barack Obama or President John McCain,
the next resident of the White House will be faced with two harsh
realities: First, the United States needs to withdraw its armed forces
from Iraq sooner rather than later. And secondly, the United States and
its Nato allies will be required to step up efforts and troop numbers
committed to fighting the war in Afghanistan.
In the months and
years ahead, Afghanistan will represent a headache to either Obama, who
wants to push for a ëresponsibleí withdrawal from Iraq, or McCain who is
ready to keep the troops there for 100 years, if necessary.
operations that Nato has been facing ó in taking over this American war
— is proving to be its most serious challenge since the end of the Cold
War. In fighting this asymmetrical war, Nato is considerably outside its
normal theatre of operations in many respects?
Atlantic Treaty Organisationís concept was of conventional armies in
Europe trained to defend against the conventional armies of its Soviet
bloc neighbours — it being a US — established alliance utilised to turn
European concerns away from post-World War II German aggression, and
focus it on the USSR threat. It’s likely that in those days, no one ever
imagined Nato would be conducting anti-guerrilla warfare in the rugged
mountains of Afghanistan in the early twenty-first century.
This has been a
challenging period of transformation, said Richard Prosen, from the U.S.
State Department’s Office of European Security and Political Affairs,
speaking last week at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies.
bureaucratese — yet with a certain level of clarity — Prosen indicated
that Nato is transforming itself from what was a static reactive
alliance focused on territorial defence, to an expeditionary pro-active
global security alliance.
Nato today faces
multiple challenges: from increasing Taleban activity in Afghanistan,
terrorist threats in other parts of the world — including infiltration
into Europe — to the horrifying possibilities inherent in the rise of
nuclear proliferation. Nato policy wonks have qualified these as the
allianceís significant threats.
The future looks
very, very grim, said Yonah Alexander, Director of the International
Center for Terrorism Studies. Alexander explains that destroying the
terrorist threat will be very difficult, given the fact that Nato is
fighting an ideology, not just a military force.
Brussels — or
really Washington ó is going to have to convince the silent majority
within the group of 26 countries that make up the North Atlantic Treaty
Organisation that failure in Afghanistan represents a real danger to
Europe and ultimately to North America.
In that regard,
when President George W. Bush spoke of Iraq, and warned that the
terrorists had to be stopped in the Middle East before they reach the
streets of New York, the analysts say he just got the country wrong.
Afghanistan is where the terrorists must be stopped.
More recently Nato
has come to realise the need of a metamorphosis of its original mission,
as there has been a re-emergence of Russia as a power to be reckoned
with ó as the conflict in Georgia has shown.
attempting to draw a new line across Europe, and the United States is
strongly opposed to this, said Ian Lesser, a senior Trans-Atlantic
fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States.
cautions, the Nato Alliance is going to have to reconsider the whole
business of nuclear forces and nuclear strategy.
That being said,
Natoís strategic concentration will be focused in two principles, but
very different directions.
alliance will have to deal with fighting an unconventional war in
Afghanistan in which victory cannot be achieved purely from a military
perspective. Yes, more troops are needed to defeat the threat in
Afghanistan, but ëvictoryí can only be achieved when a genuine democracy
takes hold; when corruption is curbed; and when, finally,
drug-trafficking is curtailed and ruthless tribal warlords are replaced
by the rule of law, good governance, and a strong central government.
That will take several decades, if not more.
relations with Russia become much more competitive and strategic, Nato
will need to revise post-Cold War era plans, retrieving Cold War
analyses that have likely been gathering dust on back shelves somewhere
at Nato headquarters and adapt them accordingly. In a little over three
months the United States will have a new president and, given the
current situation, possibly a new Cold War as well.
Salhani is editor of the Middle East Times and a political analyst is