The commander of NATO military forces, General John Craddock, said the alliance must change the way it conducts operations so the next mission does not suffer the same problems as the alliance's effort in Afghanistan.
In his final appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee, General Craddock said NATO member nations have fallen short on providing the number of combat forces and trainers that Afghanistan needs, and even on providing promised funding to help build the country's own security forces. General Craddock will end his tour of duty later this year.
He urged NATO members to use the Afghanistan experience to improve operations in the future so they do not create a two-tier alliance, with some nations doing most of the work and the others just taking the benefits.
"If we devolve or get to a two-tier [alliance] it will weaken the alliance and we will have much work to do. And we have to get ourselves arranged for the next mission, the next operation, that we send our forces to. We should not do another one arranged like this one in NATO," he said.
General Craddock particularly criticized special rules, known as caveats, that many nations put on how their forces can be used. And he accused some members of offering forces for peacekeeping in Bosnia or for the never-used NATO Response Force, rather than for more dangerous missions in Afghanistan.
"There is a risk aversion in NATO that we must continue to address and push nations," Gen. Craddock said.
The general said that attitude among most alliance members makes it impossible for NATO's International Assistance Force in Afghanistan to pursue an effective counterinsurgency campaign, involving clearing areas of hostile fighters, and holding those areas so economic development and governance projects can proceed.
"We do not have enough forces right now, between the Afghan security forces, trained and in place, and ISAF to be able to clear out the insurgents and then hold that [territory] so that development and reconstruction can occur. And that is why the additional United States contributions will go into the south," he explained.
The United States has committed to send an additional 17,000 troops to Afghanistan this year for combat and training missions. General Craddock said NATO nations have not even filled the commander's request for four battalions to be temporarily deployed to help secure the Afghan presidential election in August.
The general also called for NATO nations to strengthen their ability to defend the alliance's home territory, in order to ease concerns among some new members in Eastern Europe in the wake of Russia's invasion of Georgia last year. But he also welcomed the expected resumption of the NATO-Russia dialogue, which was suspended after the invasion, saying without that things become "more confusing and ambiguous."
Those and related issues will be taken up by President Barack Obama and other NATO leaders next week at their summit in France and Germany.