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In Afghanistan, NATO is fighting for its life

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What has happened to the great alliance of democracies that won the cold war? NATO has yet to fully mobilize and exhibits no sense of urgency concerning the extremist threat. 

NATO is fighting for its life – it had better start acting like it. 

In his speech to the cadets at West Point (my alma mater, a constituency already fully committed to the Afghan campaign), the president presented to the American people the reasons for reinforcing the Afghan mission. 

During his “Lincolnesque” Nobel Prize acceptance speech last week, Mr. Obama recognized the important legacy of nonviolence. However, he also brilliantly acknowledged the role of “just war” in ensuring global peace, thereby offering a strong defense of NATO’s participation in Afghanistan to the European public. 

Neither speech provided a needed explicit call for our NATO allies to do more.

Six stumbling blocks

Additional resources are desperately needed to ensure both success in Afghanistan as well as the alliance’s future credibility, yet NATO’s efforts in Afghanistan are crippled by six debilitating disconnects between NATO’s goals and its methods:

1. Caveats. New reinforcements must be freed of any caveats that prevent them from engaging in combat. European leaders and parliamentarians must be convinced of the need to remove these caveats.

2. Inadequate training and investment in Afghan security forces. NATO members must send desperately needed police and military training teams. This is a necessary element of any sustainable transition strategy.  

3. The absence of a regional focus. NATO has focused almost exclusively on Afghanistan even though the Taliban and Al Qaeda leadership are located in Pakistan, in close proximity to nuclear weapons. 

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