Time for NATO to Step Up to the Plate
By: Greg C. Reeson
United States Marine Corps General James L. Jones recently called upon member countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to send an additional 2,000 to 2,500 troops to Afghanistan to supplement the nearly 20,000 already taking part in military operations against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters. As the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe for NATO, General Jones is trying to drive home the point that Americaâ€™s allies in the defense organization are not contributing their fair share of military resources to the war on terror.
Following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, NATO for the first time invoked Article 5, the collective defense clause, declaring the attacks to be an attack against all NATO member countries. Yet, the Washington Times reported earlier this year that the United Statesâ€™ major allies in NATO had cut their overall troop levels and had reduced defense spending as a percentage of their economies. At the same time, the United States increased both total manpower and defense spending as a percentage of GDP in order to meet the requirements of a global war on terror.
General Jones is diplomatically trying to demonstrate that reduced resources from Americaâ€™s NATO allies hinder the ability of combat troops in Afghanistan to take on the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. His request comes amid a marked increase in violence in the country, particularly in the south where enemy forces are increasingly active. It is likely that Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters are making a concerted push against NATO forces before the winter weather sets in and slows the pace of combat operations until the country thaws out in the spring.
So far, the NATO countries have responded to the request by complaining that they are already stretched too thin across the globe and that additional troops are not likely to deploy to Afghanistan any time soon. Pressure from the United States, though, may help General Jones get some of the assets he is seeking. Stratfor, Inc. has reported that Canada has agreed to send 25% of its tank force (15 Leopard C2 main battle tanks) and 120 additional personnel to help with the fight in Afghanistan. Poland also has agreed to contribute more troops by announcing that 1,000 additional Polish soldiers will deploy to the NATO force next year.
But these additional troop contributions represent less than half the number requested by the commander on the ground, the man who presumably knows best what military resources will be needed to ensure victory for a fledgling Afghan democracy. Despite taking over control of operations in Afghanistan, the member countries of NATO appear to be wavering in their resolve to fight the war on terror.
Perhaps the absence of significant attacks against western targets has contributed to the fading of memories since the attacks on New York and Washington. Complacency seems to have set in as countries focus more on domestic matters and less on foreign military operations.
Despite the many thwarted attacks around the world, it appears the members of NATO need to be reminded that there is a radical threat from a perverse ideology that is opposed to everything we stand for. It appears they need to be reminded that Islamic fundamentalists want nothing less than the destruction of western civilization.
The time is now for NATO to step up to the plate and help the United States confront a common enemy. I only hope that it wonâ€™t take another grand attack that claims the lives of thousands of innocent people to shake NATO out of its slumber.