It looks like the United States isn’t the only NATO member getting frustrated with the way its allies are conducting themselves in Afghanistan.
Canadian Defence Minister Peter MacKay—whose troops are in the thick of the fight in Kandahar, having lost 108 troops in the war thus far—recently called out the rest of the alliance, giving voice to his frustrations in a speech in London:
Afghanistan tests the ability of the alliance to execute its most basic mission in the 21st century and in a global context…If NATO cannot deter or defeat the real physical threat facing alliance members, and indeed contribute to the building of security for the larger international community, then we have to ask ourselves, what is NATO for?
Canada currently deploys about 2,800 troops in southeast Afghanistan, one of the most violent parts of the country, and it sounds like the Ottawa government is growing tired of shouldering so much of the load while German and French troops in quieter parts of the country aren’t doing any real fighting—or much of anything, really.
According to the Ottawa Citizen, Mr. MacKay went on to say that the American “re-emphasis on the mission in Afghanistan -- with the commitment of more troops, more development, more diplomacy -- has brought a predictable sigh of relief from some around the alliance,” leading other members of NATO to simply think, “it's OK, the Americans will handle it.”
While McKay might justifiably be growing frustrated with the Europeans, it’s not like there isn’t light at the end of the tunnel for Canadian forces—Canada has announced plans to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan by 2011, a move that would blow a huge hole in coalition efforts to pacify one of the most critical areas of the country. And if the fight in 2011 looks anything like it does now, or even if we see some improvement, that hole will certainly fester, no matter how much fighting and capacity building the Canadians are currently doing.
(Pic: Afghan Police and Canadian soldiers from the 3rd Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment Battle Group on patrol. Photo: Ministry of Defence)