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Home > Features
 
NATO’s rush for exit risks Afghan collapse

(AFP) / 19 May 2012

KABUL — NATO’s rush to get out of a “quagmire” in Afghanistan risks the collapse of the state and strategic failure for the Western alliance in its decade-long war, a former EU adviser has warned.

“The intervention veered from ‘too little too late’ in its crucial early years, to one of ‘too much too late’,” said Barbara Stapleton, who was deputy to the EU special representative for Afghanistan, in a report.

The report for the independent Afghanistan Analysts Network, entitled “Beating a Retreat”, comes ahead of a NATO summit in Chicago that will hammer out details of the withdrawal of some 130,000 troops by the end of 2014.

Stapleton criticises the inflexibility of the deadline, saying the transition of security to Afghan control “cannot be divorced from actual conditions on the ground with respect to security, governance and development”.

“The idea that the official transition timeline can generate even minimally conducive conditions on the Afghan ground — that would substantiate claims that the transition strategy can succeed — is a delusion,” she wrote.

Going head regardless, “increases the risk of the Afghan state’s collapse and with it, the prospect of strategic failure for NATO”.

NATO and its International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, rejected the analysis.

“Clearly the international community is doing anything but retreating from Afghanistan,” an ISAF spokesman, Lieutenant Commander Brian Badura, told AFP.

“The evidence of the long-term commitment to Afghanistan, particularly in this past month, overwhelmingly shows the Afghan people that the nations comprising the ISAF coalition have an interest in long-term success for Afghanistan and the region.”

Germany and the United States have just signed strategic agreements with the Afghan government to allow for cooperation until 2024. Britain, France and India have already signed their own bilateral agreements, Badura said.

NATO’s senior civilian representative in Afghanistan, Simon Gass, said “transition has been one of the success stories of the last 10 years — growing Afghan National Security Forces ready and able to protect Afghans, with ISAF support”.

“As more of the country enters transition the Afghan people will feel the benefits of NATO and Afghanistan working together. After 2014 such a partnership can only be strengthened.”

The United States led an invasion of Afghanistan to topple the Taliban regime for harbouring Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden after the 9/11 attacks — and has been fighting an insurgency by the hardline Islamists ever since.

With the long war increasingly unpopular in the West, NATO set 2014 as the deadline for pulling its combat troops out, while training some 350,000 Afghan security forces to take over the fight.

“In the rush to get out of the quagmire that Afghanistan has become, the US and other NATO member states may be preparing the ground for more instability there, rather than less,” Stapleton said.

The consequences of a strategic failure by NATO “would cascade throughout the region and beyond in unforeseeable ways,” she wrote.

The Afghan government will take to the NATO summit on Sunday a firm demand for $4.1 billion a year for its security forces after 2014, insisting that it is an investment for the West’s security.

“This is not charity, Afghanistan is and will be on the frontline of the world’s fight against terrorism,” Deputy Foreign Minister Jawed Ludin told foreign journalists ahead of the summit.

 

 

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