Gates whines about NATO


Richard Moore

Nato 'at risk over Afghanistan'

By Administrator

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates has warned the future of Nato is at risk due 
to differences over Afghanistan and that it may become a two-tier alliance.

"I think that it puts a cloud over the future of the alliance if this is to 
endure, or perhaps even get worse."

Robert Gates,US Defence Secretary

Mr Gates said that without more sharing of the burden of counter-insurgency in 
Afghanistan, the willingness of those engaged in combat would disappear.

Most of the fighting in the volatile south of the country is being done by the 
US, UK, Canada and the Netherlands.

His comments came as Germany announced it would send 200 troops to the north.

German Defence Minister Franz Josef Jung said the rapid reaction force would be 
sent to Mazar-e-Sharif in the next few months, but could be deployed to other 
areas in an emergency.

Last week, the US government sent letters to European states pressing them to 
send troops to southern Afghanistan.

"I think it would be a very big mistake if we would transfer our responsibility 
from the north to the south," Mr Jung said in response on Wednesday.

But speaking to a US Senate committee, Mr Gates said he would continue to be a 
"nag" on the issue at the informal meeting of Nato defence ministers in the 
Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, on Thursday.

"I worry a great deal about the alliance evolving into a two-tiered alliance, in
which you have some allies willing to fight and die to protect peoples' 
security, and others who are not," he said.

"And I think that it puts a cloud over the future of the alliance if this is to 
endure, or perhaps even get worse."


Mr Gates reluctantly agreed recently to send an extra 3,200 US marines to the 
country, having previously suggested the extra troops should be provided by 
other countries.

All 26 Nato members have contributed troops to the International Security 
Assistance Force (Isaf), but many US allies, including Germany, France, Spain, 
Turkey and Italy, have refused to send significant numbers of combat forces to 
the south.

The decision has created a rift between them and the US, UK, Canada, the 
Netherlands, Denmark and Romania, whose troops have borne the brunt of the 
counter-insurgency fight in recent years.

Canada has been the latest to warn it could pull its contingent of 2,500 troops 
out of the country unless allies provide reinforcements in Kandahar province.

Mr Gates's comments were echoed by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice when 
she met UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Foreign Secretary David Miliband in 
London on Wednesday.

"The alliance is facing a real test here. And it is a test of alliance 
strength," she said.

Ms Rice added that people needed to understand it was not a peacekeeping mission
in Afghanistan, but a fight against the resurgent Taleban.

Mr Brown earlier told MPs: "What we are looking for... is a determination on the
part of all our allies to ensure the burden sharing in Afghanistan is fair."

He said he wanted their commitment in time for the Nato summit in the Romanian 
capital, Bucharest, in April.

'Making progress'

The bilateral talks came a day after a London-based think-tank, the 
International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), warned that Afghanistan 
faced becoming a "failed state" if operations by Nato were unsuccessful.

The IISS report echoed the tone of a number of other studies in the last week, 
including one from the influential US-based Afghanistan Study Group.

But despite the gloomy predictions, Nato Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer
has insisted that the alliance is making progress.

Mr de Hoop Scheffer said six million children had been enrolled in school, 
3,000km of roads had been built and 80% of Afghans now had access to basic 

He accepted that some big challenges remained, including the adequate training 
and equipping of the Afghan National Army, but said Nato's mission in the 
country was one of necessity, not choice.

"We are fighting on one of the front lines of terrorism," he said.

"And the ones who want to spoil Afghanistan's development should not have it 
their way, because the consequences would not be felt in Afghanistan, but far 

Mr de Hoop Scheffer said his measure of success would be an Afghanistan that did
not need the help of the international community, but stressed the wider 
reconstruction of the country would take generations.

 [Published February 7, 2008, link]

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