Saturday, January 10, 2009

Oh, those " national caveats"...


At the first glance, it is hard to understand why there are two overlapping missions in Afghanistan NATO-led mission International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and U.S.-led Operation Enduring Freedom (OED), but closer look reveals us the complexities of such dual military command.
In a Afghan Study Group report, published nearly one year ago, on January 30, 2008, its authours (among them also Gen. James L. Jones (Retd.), future national Security Advisor to the president-elect Barack Obama) quite clearly describes the existing situation:
This is not to say that the current command and control system cannot be adjusted or improved. By definition, international military operations are complex, beset by national caveats and other restrictions, and do not compare with the efficiencies resident in a national chain of command. To be successful, senior commanders must be patient, tolerant, and understanding of the complexities (both military and political) that bring about success in international operations. Essentially, there are two strategic commands operating in Afghanistan. Both are commanded by Americans. One (SHAPE) is in Mons, Belgium, and the other is on MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida. Both commands are comprised of multinational forces, and both must work in harmony in order to succeed in Afghanistan. American commanders and key staff officers are interspersed at virtually all critical positions of the NATO command structure in order to de-conflict operations. In fact, for the past year, the U.S. has also commanded the tactical headquarters of NATO’s force in Afghanistan (ISAF) with a third four-star general.
The range of military missions in Afghanistan encompasses everything from humanitarian to highly kinetic conventional and special operations. It is a fact that some nations have strong national restrictions with regard to the type of operations their forces are authorized to undertake, but this has been true since 2004. As long as nations refuse to modify their positions with regard to caveats and restrictions, the command structure will be, by necessity, complex. It would be ideal if nations could agree, as they did in Kosovo in 2004, to remove virtually all caveats and restrictions. This far, in Afghanistan, they have not done so.
NATO and OEF forces have some degree of overlapping missions. NATO’s ISAF’s key military tasks include assisting the Afghan government in extending its authority across the country, conducting stability and security operations in co-ordination with the Afghan national security forces; mentoring and supporting the Afghan National Army (ANA); and supporting Afghan government programs to disarm illegally armed groups. The OEF mission in Afghanistan is to conduct counter-insurgency (COIN) operations against the Taliban and other insurgents, and to stop the infiltration of Taliban forces from Pakistan into Afghanistan.
The existing command structure is the result of some Allies not wanting their forces to participate in OEF’s COIN missions, which are politically sensitive on their home public opinion fronts. Such an “imperfect and complicated” command structure requires ISAF and OEF commanders and their subordinates and staffs to coordinate and ensure transparency in their operational plans.

"National Caveats" Hobbles NATO Anti-narcotics Eefforts

A drive by the NATO alliance to disrupt Afghanistan's drug trade has been hobbled by new objections from member nations that say their laws do not permit soldiers to carry out such operations, according to senior commanders here. The objections are being raised despite an agreement two months ago that the alliance's campaign in Afghanistan would be broadened to include attacks on narcotics facilities, traffickers, middlemen and drug lords whose profits help to finance insurgent groups.
During a recent visit here, General John Craddock, NATO's supreme allied commander, expressed surprise upon learning of what he described as a gap between the decision by alliance defense ministers to authorize aggressive counternarcotics missions and the lack of follow-through because of objections from several of the countries that make up the NATO force in Afghanistan.
As the United States and its allies strive to devise a better strategy to stabilize and rebuild Afghanistan, American policy makers and military officers say it is critical to choke off the drug money that sustains the insurgency, much as they are working with Pakistan to halt the use of its tribal areas as a haven by the Taliban and other antigovernment forces just across the border from Afghanistan.
Seven years after the rout of Al Qaeda and the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan, disagreements over how aggressively NATO forces should go after the insurgency's chief source of revenue are only the latest hurdle in a campaign that has been troubled by disputes between the United States and some of its allies about what role NATO soldiers should play in a mission cast as "security assistance."
The counternarcotics debate is a reminder of how unwieldy the alliance's military operations can be. United Nations figures show that Afghan insurgents reap at least $100 million a year from the drug trade, although some estimates put the figure at five times as much.
In an interview, Craddock said profit from the narcotics trade "buys the bomb makers and the bombs, the bullets and the trigger-pullers that are killing our soldiers and marines and airmen, and we have to stop them."
NATO officials in Brussels declined to list the nations that have opposed widening the alliance mandate to include attacks on drug networks, and no nation has volunteered that it has legal objections.
But a number of NATO members have in broad terms described their reluctance publicly, including Germany, Italy, Poland and Spain. Their leaders have cited domestic policies that make counternarcotics a law enforcement matter — not a job for their militaries — and expressed concern that domestic lawsuits could be filed if their soldiers carried out attacks to kill noncombatants, even if the victims were involved in the drug industry in Afghanistan.
As has been the case in a whole range of combat operations mounted by NATO forces in Afghanistan, each country is allowed to state its reservations and opt out of missions that are viewed as too risky, either politically or militarily. Those "caveats" have been a source of enormous frustration to American commanders.
That system of caveats was never intended to halt NATO operations; missions objectionable to one nation can be taken over by another nation's forces. But commanders say that legal objections to counternarcotics operations have prevented the international mix of troops across poppy-rich regions of southern Afghanistan from carrying out the new responsibilities.
Full article is here

Afghan Bonn Architect: They Are not Working Together Very Well

Lakhdar Brahimi:

We thought that NATO coming out of its natural territory, which is Europe, for the first time, would do its very, very best not to fail. But it hasn't been the case. Very, very frankly, to put it very mildly, NATO has been a disappointment in Afghanistan. They are not working together very well. Each country is really running its [own] policy. They have what they call caveats. Every country comes in with a lot of conditions. They say: "These are the things that we accept to do. And these are the things that we do not accept to do." The poor secretary-general of NATO has people who will always tell him: "No, no, no. This is not for me."
The international community as a whole -- perhaps not the United Nations, but lot of others -- has lost sight of the interest of the people of Afghanistan. And I think we need to go back to that. What are we doing in Afghanistan? This nonsense about fighting terrorism in Afghanistan doesn't make any sense. If you help the people of Afghanistan, rebuild their state, international terrorism will disappear from Afghanistan overnight. If you don't do that, you will kill a lot of people -- both the people you call terrorists and I'm afraid a lot of innocent people -- and you will just as a matter of fact help this international terrorism to recruit more people.
Interview with RFE/RL
"A New Path for Afghanistan" by Lakhdar Brahimi is here

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