What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


I'll direct attention here to two articles by Daniel Korski - it's not his first mention on this blog. I like the way he sums up the significance of Sunday's attack on the Kabul military parade. He picks at Karzai a little, but that's not what I'd like to draw attention to here.
"At NATO's Bucharest Summit, the U.S-led coalition had been working hard to advertise trans-Atlantic unity, helped by a French offer to send 1000-odd soldiers to the eastern parts of the country. President Karzai returned from the summit beaming, feeling that he had put paid to months of Western sniping following his rejection of British peer Paddy Ashdown as the UN's envoy. The eventual choice, Norwegian ambassador Kai Eide, had set about his tasks with considerable gusto.
But whoever wrote this script forgot to consider the Taliban and the real state of Afghanistan's reconstruction."
Read the whole article as well as this other one, which I should have linked to earlier as well, because it's quite interesting with regards to some of the countries participating in ISAF operations in southern Afghanistan.
"The Netherlands, for many years wedded to its military relationship with Germany - the two armies even share equipment storages - is turning towards London. Its Navy and Royal Marines have close links with their British counterparts, forged in part by fighting the Taliban.
In Denmark, the centre-right government has gradually detached the country from its traditional Nordic anchor and moved closer to London. "There is simply no scope for cooperation with Denmark", a Swedish MP recently complained. Danish soldiers, who in the 1990s deployed to the Balkans as part of a Nordic Battle Group, now operate under British command both in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Europe's two most militarily-capable newcomers - Poland and Romania - are also privileging links with Britain. Romanian soldiers serve under British command, both on deployments and in key multinational exercises. Britain provides an adviser to the Polish government to give advice on defence planning, programming and budget management."
If one just reads the title of this latter article, London calling: How Britain now runs European security, one could automatically start firing from the hip that it's the U.S. that is really running European security. But the article is talking about quite relevant dynamics - the emergence, as Korski calls it, of an RC-South caucus within Europe which might, if it becomes more entrenched and institutionalised, undermine ESDP even, and any European unity of effort. The problem of course is not the emergence of the caucus per se, but the lack of willingness by some countries outside it to get serious about Afghanistan.
Now, during the week-end, I put together a brief op-ed for the Atlantic Community. I don't have much experience with the genre, and I like blogging much more - doing blogging I don't have to keep an eye on the word count, I can just keep on talking as long as I feel I need to. With this op-ed I had to stay below 500 words, which felt about as comfortable to me as urban life felt to Dersu Uzala. Anyway, here's the text of my first experiment writing an op-ed in English. (I re-worked it a little since I first posted it in the mourning. I will link to the eventual version of course.)
With a bit of a stretch, let's call this the end of a round-up of recent opinion pieces on Afghanistan ;-)
* * * * * *
The right NATO for the right Afghanistan
Afghanistan needs an external security guarantee for the long run. Colonel Thomas Lynch, writing in the latest issue of The American Interest, was right about that. NATO should provide that guarantee against clashing external influence-seeking endeavours, but it can only do so if it sheds its geopolitical identity for the Afghan mission. That is how a neutral strategic identity could be secured for Afghanistan.
Yet ISAF's recent strategic vision statement doesn't address even the need for a long-term commitment unambiguously, attached as it still is to the 2010 time horizon of the Benchmarks and Timelines section of the 2006 Afghanistan Compact, which it declares the basis of a "medium-term" plan.
For the longer-term approach missing from the document, while NATO should act consciously of geopolitical interests in its housekeeper role, it must act consciously of security interdependence and others' interests so far out of area as in Afghanistan.
Either as a potential haven of terrorists or as a drug-producing area, or in the form of both, Afghanistan is a problem for all major powers, including even Russia, China and Iran. If NATO acts in service of the North-Atlantic community's homeland security at the distant source of the aforementioned threats, conforming to what is commonly referred to as the new security agenda, then its success will not be contrary to other major players' interests.
Three scenarios offer stability in the long run in Afghanistan, pending a number of conditions.
One possibility is that foreign troops leave Afghanistan if the ongoing insurgencies are critically weakened and Afghan forces can contain them. It is especially valid in that case that a neutral strategic identity would suit Afghanistan. That scenario, however, would be equal to trusting the right geopolitical equilibrium to luck.
Alternatively, Western troops' presence may continue in the longer run. An informal, U.S.-led coalition or a NATO force could stay to guarantee Afghanistan's stability, constraining external endeavours.
Should it be an informal coalition remaining behind in Afghanistan, it would, over time, further aggravate existing capability gaps within NATO. Those have a negative impact not only on the North-Atlantic alliance.
An informal coalition may also evoke geopolitical worries in others and that can affect even NATO's room for manoeuvre, in its own area - more than NATO itself would, since several NATO members are spectacularly reluctant to engage in global geopolitics. Thus the latters’ involvement in Afghanistan presents a plausible argument against the concerns of those prospective challengers of an open-ended commitment who could otherwise substantially raise the costs of staying.
If over arguments about making NATO potent and with geopolitical sensitivity we opt for NATO, it must be more clearly the alliance itself, and not „the U.S. and some others" - less like what Col. Lynch refers to as a „U.S./NATO presence," more clearly a „NATO" one.
For now southern Afghanistan is where non-U.S. troops could make a clearer mark. There is responsibility for that in the wake of ISAF's Stage 3 expansion in 2006. In the long run it would be more important to improve the way NATO countries apply the PRT concept, where it is actually needed, and also to better their performance in providing training to the Afghan army and police.
That's by far not all that there is to challenges in Afghanistan. However, a more evenly capable NATO's guarantee for a sustainable, neutral Afghan strategic identity is part of the solution.

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