News

    European Governments Place Restrictions on NATO Forces in Afghanistan

    International forces under the banner of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization are continuing to fight Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan. But NATO field commanders are hindered by certain restrictions placed on troops by European governments.

    NATO has more than 60,000 troops in Afghanistan as part of a United Nations mandated contingent known as the "International Security Assistance Force" - or ISAF.

    ISAF troops are located in most parts of the country. One of their most difficult missions is to fight insurgents in southern Afghanistan - home of the Taliban, ousted from power by a U.S.-led coalition in 2001.

    "Caveats"

    Analysts say NATO is hindered in its fight against the Taliban by so-called "caveats" - restrictions placed by various NATO countries on what their forces can or cannot do.

    Tomas Valasek, at the London-based Center for European Reform, describes some of those restrictions.

    "What's happening is that whenever a call for troops comes in for a particular operation, the different contingents come back, or get back to the NATO commanders saying, well we'd love to take part but under the national 'caveat' we are not allowed to operate in this particular area, or we're not allowed to operate this far away from the base, or we are not allowed to operate at night," he said.

    Valasek says NATO commanders in the field are finding it difficult to put together a workable strategy.

    "If you are a military commander, and if you are looking at putting together a fighting force out of what is already a hodge-podge of national militaries, and you're finding that each one operates under a different set of rules - some of them very restrictive - well, that's a very difficult way to fight a war. Caveats have been a tremendous frustration to the NATO commanders," he said.

    Most of the fighting in Afghanistan is taking place in the south. But the Taliban has expanded its range of action to the east and to the relatively peaceful north.

    Robert Hunter, former U.S. Ambassador to NATO, says the presence of "caveats" means only a few countries are bearing the brunt of the heavy fighting.

    "The United States, Britain, the Dutch, the Canadians, who've actually had more fatalities in Afghanistan than any war since Korea - what 50, 60 years ago," he said. "The Estonians, the French are doing a bit more, the Poles do a bit. But most of the rest of the allies are not involved, really, in that most dangerous part of the country."

    The United States is the largest contributor to the ISAF force with approximately 30,000 soldiers and Marines. Their presence in the most dangerous areas of Afghanistan has prompted some U.S. soldiers to say ISAF - the "International Security Assistance Force" - stands for "I Saw Americans Fighting", or "I Stop At Five", a reference to the European "caveats".

    During a recent speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, President Barack Obama said the Taliban insurgency will not be defeated overnight.

    "This will not be quick, nor easy," he said. "But we must never forget. This is not a war of choice. This is a war of necessity. Those who attacked America on 9/11 [2001] are plotting to do so again. If left unchecked, the Taliban insurgency will mean an even larger safe haven from which al-Qaida would plot to kill more Americans. So this is not only a war worth fighting. This is fundamental to the defense of our people."

    Fundamental difference

    Many analysts say this is the fundamental difference between Washington and many European countries: whereas the U.S. believes Afghanistan is a national security issue, the European public does not.

    Charles Kupchan is with the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington D.C. "They do not believe, for example, in Germany, that German forces are protecting German territory from a potential strike by al-Qaida," he said.  

    "And as a result of that, it is difficult for the German government to make the case to the German public, not only that they should send more troops, but that those troops that are already there should stay and should run the risk of physical harm. And so a lot of it is that the Europeans simply have not done a good enough job of making the case to their publics for the war in Afghanistan," he added.

    Some analysts are also questioning whether the Obama administration has done enough to convince the American public the U.S. must stay - at least for the time being - in Afghanistan. A recent public opinion survey indicates 51 percent of those questioned say the war in Afghanistan is not worth fighting.

    "If the war in Afghanistan does not go well, then I think by sometime in 2010 Obama may have a domestic problem. And those who worry about Afghanistan becoming Obama's Vietnam may say: 'I told you so," said Kupchan.

    In the meantime, experts say the U.S. must convince the Europeans to do more in Afghanistan for NATO to succeed.

    They say if the Europeans have an interest in keeping NATO strong - as they say they do - then it requires doing some unpopular things - like sending troops to dangerous areas in Afghanistan.  

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeasti
    X
    June 29, 2016 6:15 PM
    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora