NATO renewal requires European courage on Afghanistan
NATO reform can’t come fast enough. European leaders must step up and persuade the public of the importance of the Afghan mission and the threat of Al Qaeda.
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The New York Times’ editorial “Dutch Retreat” struck a similar chord in saying that “Europe’s leaders need to tell themselves – and their voters the truth. The war in Afghanistan is not just about America’s security. It, too, is about denying sanctuaries to al Qaeda, which has also carried out deadly terrorist attacks in Europe.”Skip to next paragraph
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The otherwise astute comments of Clinton, Gates, Ashdown, and the editorial board of The New York Times missed the fact that European leaders are not given the tools to lead public opinion.
This is because the entire counter-terrorism mission is treated almost exclusively as a law enforcement issue in Europe, falling under the purview of national justice and interior ministries which are only loosely coordinated by the European Union and completely disconnected form NATO. This inefficient separation means that the leaders of Europe are prevented from comprehending the connection between operations in Afghanistan and the security of European cities.
This is why most Europeans have no understanding of the greater strategic threat and why they are unaware of the direct danger that al Qaeda poses to Europe and its interests.
NATO has not done an overall threat assessment of the destabilizing effect extremists are having on Pakistan, India, and Central Asia, and how that instability threatens European security and European interests. This is despite the fact that Al Qaeda and likeminded extremist organizations have used their extensive networks to strike at the heart of major European cities.
Furthermore, these attacks are enabled by the training received in Al Qaeda sanctuaries along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. This threat will only become greater should NATO fail in Afghanistan.
What is to be done? The leaders of Europe must immediately launch an assessment of the ongoing threat to the security of NATO member nations and embark upon a major, wide-scale public information campaign regarding the importance of the Afghan mission at hand.
When I was NATO ambassador in the 1980s, NATO was obliged to do such an assessment of the threat to Europe. It is my sincere hope that Secretary Albright’s group can accelerate NATO’s reform timetable. Give the Alliance leaders the tools to warn of a clear and present danger and it will be the driving force that will allow public support for NATO’s successful 21st century renewal.