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NATO renewal requires European courage on Afghanistan

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The Strategic Concept’s timing threatens to render it inconsequential. The reform lags well behind the president’s new troop commitment and the need to turn the tide in Afghanistan this year. The collapse of the Dutch government due to political opposition to a continued Dutch military contribution is just the latest example of why NATO must reform immediately.

There was much talk about the importance of Article 5, which states that “an armed attack against one or more [NATO nations] in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all....” Yet the best way to guarantee Article 5’s credibility is to ensure that its first invocation results in success in Afghanistan. If not, Americans would see little value in it and the transatlantic relationship could be irrevocably damaged. 

The night before the symposium, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton similarly criticized the Alliance, saying that military and civilian budgets were divorced from Alliance priorities and that important priorities were under-resourced. Following her speech, she said that the art of leadership was to lead and called on European heads of government to speak out and mobilize their publics in support of an enhanced commitment to Euro-Atlantic security.

In a recent brilliant op-ed, Paddy Ashdown, the renowned British diplomat and former High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, also called on European leaders to remind their publics of the necessity of the Afghan campaign.

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