Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Europe's Contribution To Afghanistan

A sad piece in today's Washington Post on Europe's impotence when it comes to keeping the peace outside of Europe, and reports from Afghanistan:

Afghanistan has been left with peacekeeping done on the cheap. Major European powers such as France, Italy, Turkey and Spain have coughed up only a few hundred troops each for duty in the country. The Germans have been more generous, but even their contingent tops out at just 2,000 troops. The Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit, a Kabul-based think tank, calculated that the Afghanistan mission (including the U.S. troops under separate command) is orders of magnitude weaker than recent missions to Kosovo, Bosnia, Haiti and East Timor. In Kosovo there was one international soldier for every 50 citizens; in Afghanistan there is one peacekeeper for every 1,000 Afghans. These paltry contributions come even as the peacekeeping mission in Bosnia has shrunk from 50,000 troops in 1995 to just over 7,000 today.
Spain, a country of 42 million, is rotating its troops currently, replacing the current 300 or so troops with no more than 1,040 by the time of the presidential elections. And they need to be out, come what may, within 90 days after deployment on orders of minister of retreat defense José Bono. David Bosco finishes with this thought:
But at some point the European excuses wear thin. The United States has almost 120,000 troops in Iraq and close to 20,000 in Afghanistan hunting extremists. In this setting of sustained sacrifice, the European states should be able to cobble together more than 7,000 soldiers for a credible Afghan peacekeeping force. The hard truth is that European political leaders have not had the courage to seek to convince their skeptical publics of the need for a commitment to Afghanistan. At the same time, few European governments have invested adequately in their militaries, which are still structured for territorial defense and have trouble operating far from home for extended periods.

Unless European leaders are dissembling, they understand the significance of the transition underway in Afghanistan. They understand that failure will have strategic consequences for the West and terrible human consequences for the Afghan people. Disturbing enough on its own, Europe's performance in Afghanistan has even darker implications: It suggests that the hands-off policy in Iraq may be little more than military impotence and political weakness masquerading as principle.
Heh. All I can say is that Spanish troops are transported by commercial airliners. The Socialists here are trying to make a political thing out of an accident with a rented Yakovlev Yak-42, which crashed in Turkey while rotating troops out of Afghanistan (out of 60 dead, some thirty were falsely identified which formed a perfect excuse for the incoming Socialist government to get rid of a bunch of hawks among the Joint Chiefs). Sadly enough, the (now in the oposition) PP party did not counter by asking a firm commitment to buy only the best materials to transport Spanish troops around the world. Instead, they -like what happened when they were shouted down before the elections- played their opponent's game, and went into spasmodic defenses -again.

Illustrative of the state of affairs in European defense today. Except for maybe France and the United Kingdom (and the Czechs and Poles who are rapidly transforming their armies and specializing), it's all underfunded, and can't be moved to any theater outside continental Europe.