Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sten Rynning's "NATO in Afghanistan"

Sten Rynning is Professor of Political Science at the University of Southern Denmark. He is the author of NATO Renewed: The Power and Purpose of Transatlantic Security Cooperation and Changing Military Doctrine: Presidents and Military Power in Fifth Republic France, 1958–2000.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, NATO in Afghanistan: The Liberal Disconnect, and reported the following:
Page 99 of NATO in Afghanistan addresses one of the darkest hours of the Alliance’s engagement in Afghanistan. There have been many dark hours, for sure, but here we encounter the Alliance at the moment when it has decided to expand its force (the International Security Assistance Force, ISAF) beyond the Afghan capital of Kabul, which is a monumental decision, but remains split on the issue of what needs to be done in Afghanistan.

We find ourselves in early 2004. Three prominent allies support ISAF expansion for very different reasons. The United States is eager to get relief in Afghanistan so that its main force can focus on Iraq, while its rump force in Afghanistan (Operation Enduring Freedom, OEF) can chase bandits in the rugged terrain. Germany is pushing heavily for ISAF expansion because it wants an Alliance success following the debacle over the Iraq war in 2003 and because it sees in ISAF the kind of soft security assistance to which it has become wedded. France is going along with ISAF expansion and invests significantly in it militarily but does not follow Germany in terms of building up softer security capacities: In France’s view, NATO can do military operations but soft security is the business of the European Union.

Excerpt from page 99:
France committed troops and invested in a lead mission, but it remained inherently skeptical of ISAF’s civil-military mission and the PRT [provincial reconstruction team] concept. This was the cornerstone of the approach promoted by Germany and adopted by the Alliance. Germany knew that the OEF-ISAF divide was real but sought to provide substance to ISAF via the PRT. France, Germany’s privileged partner in European affairs, declined to follow Germany’s lead and did not support the PRTs. It was a clear but troubling position because it further eroded the foundation for the big ISAF that was coming into being.
The tragedy here is not so much that the build-up of ISAF occurred to compensate for Alliance disunity on Iraq – a dynamic regularly noted in the literature. It is rather that the allies built up ISAF while remaining fundamentally in disaccord on the mission. A stronger ISAF meant different things to decision-makers in different countries who each had well rehearsed national agendas regarding the global war on terror, NATO’s evolution, and the European Union’s future trajectory.

Moreover, the allies maintained the illusion of collective strategy and impact with reference to liberal ideas that justified faith in Afghan democracy and also the ability of the international community writ large to come together in its support. These ideas had become institutionalized in NATO because they conveniently suggest that if nation-building goes wrong, it is not simply the fault of NATO. What NATO leaders must do now is accept the responsibility that if they send soldiers into fights, they must also provide a realistic plan for the fight. This will require a re-introduction of strategic thinking in the Alliance.
Learn more about NATO in Afghanistan at the Stanford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue