News / Europe

European Governments Restrict Their NATO Forces In Afghanistan

International troops 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 86,000 troops in Afghanistan as part of the United Nations mandated contingent known as the "International Security Assistance Force" - or ISAF. More than 40 countries are part of ISAF, including all 28 NATO members.

One of the most difficult ISAF mission is to fight insurgents in southern Afghanistan - home of the Taliban, ousted from power by a U.S.-led coalition in 2001. NATO troops are now engaged in a major military operation in southern Helmand province.

But analysts say NATO commanders are hindered in their fight against insurgents by so-called "caveats" - restrictions placed by various countries on what their forces can or cannot do.

Michael Williams, a NATO expert at London University, describes some of those restrictions.

"Some caveats might be our forces can't operate after night," said Michael Williams. "Our forces can't operate outside of this region or district. They can't be sent in combat operations. They can only fire when fired upon, etc. And so it can lead to some bizarre circumstances where if your rules of engagement are unless you are fired on you can't return fire - if let's say you are with the British and they are being fired at, but technically your soldiers aren't being, they can't actually assist the British forces."

Williams and other experts say those "caveats" make it difficult for commanders on the ground to put together a workable strategy.

The United States is the largest contributor to the ISAF force with approximately 47,000 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.

Another problem facing NATO forces is that the war in Afghanistan is not popular in Europe.

Recently (Feb. 20th), the Dutch government collapsed over its Afghan policy. One of the major coalition partners - the Labor Party - left the government saying it would not support extending the Dutch deployment. There are about 2,000 Dutch troops in Afghanistan and they will now begin to return home this August.

Sean Kay is a NATO expert with Ohio Wesleyan University:

"There's an interesting diplomatic irony to this which is that the Dutch showed their strong commitment to NATO during the Bush administration," said Sean Kay. "And now the Obama administration is in place, which is very popular in The Netherlands - but now they are leaving. And the real question mark is whether this will lead to a race to the exit doors among not just the NATO allies, but if America becomes increasingly isolated in the operation there, then one has to really keep an eye on public opinion in this country and how that might impact operations there as well."

But during a recent news conference in Washington, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen dismissed those concerns.

"I don't think what has happened in The Netherlands will have any impact on the situation in other countries," said Anders Fogh Rasmussen. "It is a result of a unique political situation in The Netherlands."

Canada is expected to begin withdrawing its 3,000 troops in mid-2011 and experts say the Dutch example will only encourage those who believe Canada should go ahead with its departure plans.

Sean Kay says while the U.S. administration is sending an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan, it will also begin withdrawing American forces in July 2011, beginning the handover of security responsibility to Afghan soldiers. He says that may force other countries to reassess their Afghan policy.

"How has the American decision to begin to reassess the surge in 2011 kind of opened up a door where other states might think okay, 2011 is the date when we're going to start getting out of Afghanistan," he said. "Allies may be really calculating in those kinds of terms. And if that's true, then it raises the question of how much they are going to be really willing to invest and sacrifice, especially on combat missions in the near term, if the real goal here is to develop an exit strategy."

Many experts believe Europeans can contribute more to non-combat operations - that is working with local authorities to improve the everyday life of Afghans. Many analysts say that part may be as important - if not more - than the combat operations against the Taliban.

You May Like

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Russia’s Prosecutor General to Review Legality of Baltics Independence

Move, announced Tuesday, has alarmed Baltic States and strained even further their increasingly tense ties with Moscow More

US Urged to Keep Up Pressure on Cuba Rights

Communist government continues to hold dozens of political prisoners, tightly restricts freedom of expression, uses threats, intimidation to discourage critics, according to activist groups More

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.
Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Interneti
X
Mike O'Sullivan
June 30, 2015 8:20 PM
Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.

VOA Blogs