February 19, 2008
Europe: Do they have any honour left?
NATO's Afghan Failure
February 1, 2008; Page A14
We feel Stephen Harper's pique. Maybe France, Germany and other so-called NATO allies will as well and heed the Canadian Prime Minister's call to share the war-fighting burden in Afghanistan.
Miracles happen. For the time being, however, the Continentals are in no apparent hurry to break a five-decade habit of enjoying a free ride on security. None seriously answered NATO's call for up to 7,000 more troops for Afghanistan. So the U.S. last month announced a "temporary" deployment of another 3,200 Marines, the second large reinforcement in a year. That brings the U.S. deployment to nearly 30,000, with about half those troops as part of the NATO force of 42,000.
The plight of the Canadians ought to shame other allies. Mr. Harper warned that his country wouldn't extend its 2,500-strong mission in Afghanistan's unstable southern provinces unless Europe ponies up troops and equipment. His minority party will soon put the deployment to Parliament, where the opposition wants a withdrawal. "If NATO can't come through with that help, then I think, frankly, NATO's own reputation and future will be in jeopardy," he said this week. Canadians aren't known for hyperbole.
In the past year and a half, the alliance has successfully fought a resurgent Taliban. But the struggle isn't over, and the success of NATO's first ever deployment outside Europe is far from assured. The U.S., Britain, the Netherlands and Canada - which alone has lost 78 soldiers - are carrying a disproportionate load.
Though the mission flies a NATO flag, Germany, Italy and Spain put caveats on their troops, preventing them from leaving more peaceful areas to reinforce the Canadians and others in the south and east. With a limited presence on the ground, France would appear best placed of the big European countries to contribute 1,000 new troops or more.
The Continentals fill up lots of air space at policy conferences talking about Europe's readiness to play a prominent role in global affairs. The Canadians are now usefully calling their bluff.
Copyright 2008 - The Wall Street Journal