Friday, 3 April 2009

Pre-Summit Briefing Analysis II - Afghanistan

Appathurai's briefing also covered the question of Afghnaistan in some detail. This is central to the success of the Summit, and is now key to NATO's future credibility as an alliance. In addition, President Obama has made it a key part of his Presidency, adopting the 'good war' as is own, while doing everything he can to distance himself from the Iraq War.

However, even before leaders meet, Obama has given up on the idea that Europe will match his surge in troops for Afghanistan. The Americans have also accepted that Germany and other nations will not be lifting the caveats on the use of the troops they have deployed to ISAF.

All of this has caused some discontent in Washington DC. However, NATO is now focusing on training and equiping the Afghan army with the likely creation of a NATO Afghan Training Mission for that purpose. They are also focused on getting the elections held this Summer.

The Hague meeting on Afghanistan this week, where a NATO official had a first meeting with an Iranian representative for 30 years, made a good start in 'regionalising' the security situation. But it didn't answer the big questions. Can NATO do enough to pacify the south of the country? Can it even secure Kabul, where the situation has been deteriorating for some months?

From the briefing journalists were given, it seems that this Summit will work around the edges of the problem, with the real work happening in Washington DC and in ad-hoc meetings, such as the Hague.

We have a strategy in NATO, a comprehensive political military plan, they will endorse, that has been constantly revised. It will always be revised. It is a living document. They will endorse it. But they will also wish to have a discussion, of course, of President Obama's strategy, the initiatives that he has announced and how those fit in with the overall NATO approach, how the overall NATO approach should take account of the U.S. strategy, and the different investments that the United States is making.

That broad strategic discussion will take place with a separate but much more practical discussion and that is how do we meet the immediate requirements that we as an Alliance have to meet our commitments with regard to Afghanistan. What does that mean? The Secretary General would like to see NATO meet its requirements for election support. We need, in essence, four battalions of extra forces, above and beyond what the United States is providing, for the election period, in the run-up to the elections, through a potential run-off, which might take place after Ramadan, if that's necessary, so in October.

So election support forces - we need them, the Secretary General would like to see them.
OMLTs, embedded training teams, as the United States calls them, though NATO's are slightly different. Small training teams that are embedded with Afghan battalions. We are short 13. We have 52. we're short 13 OMLTs, Mentoring and Liaison Teams. We would like to see those also provided by allies by the Summit.

Third, police training. This will be a theme of the year, I am quite sure. All of the allies believe, and I think the United Nations believe, the Afghan authorities also believe, that we need to invest much more in police training. That has to include gendarmerie training, paramilitary training and that it should be done in a coherent way.

The Secretary General has said he wishes to see the creation by the Summit of a... or an agreement to create by the allies, a NATO Training Mission Afghanistan similar to what we have in Iraq. We have a NATO training mission in Iraq. Which would bring together the various training initiatives for the various different security bodies, Afghan security bodies in Afghanistan, to ensure that there is a coherent and effective approach.

This, of course, would have, I believe will have a very strong European element. I don't know what exactly the modalities will be, but he would like to see a NATO Training Mission Afghanistan, which as I say, would bring together the relevant training efforts, if not all, then most of the relevant training efforts in Afghanistan - army and police.

Finally, he would like to see, and this is not necessarily by the time of the Summit, but certainly in the coming weeks if there will be other international bodies, such as the European Union, the OSCE or others, the UN, who might be deploying observers for the election, that NATO would find a way to provide the necessary support to them.

Though I'm not sure that this will necessarily be a Summit deliverable, not least because the other bodies have not yet firmed up exactly what it is that they will do and how they will do it. But certainly that is a desire of his.

There will be a Summit declaration on Afghanistan. There will be a communiqué, which goes through all the various issues. All of these are being drafted now, so you will have a declaration on Alliance security, which will, we believe, we hope, launch a strategic concept process. There will be a stand-alone statement on Afghanistan and there will be a third document, that is the communiqué, which obviously doesn't repeat what's in the other two.

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