Newspaper Article 08/09/2014
Imran-Qadri circus kept Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif away from an important international event— Nato summit in Wales. This was the last summit before Nato ends its combat operations in Afghanistan. Event was originally conceived to define Nato’s post-Afghanistan mission and role. However, the gathering had to confront two unexpected and overshadowing issues: Russia’s continued ‘provocations’ and implosive dynamics of Iraq in the form of emergence of Islamic State in Syria and Iraq (ISIS). Nato articulated a commitment to working with others who share its values and resolved to maintain an international order that promotes freedom, democracy and the rule of law.
Nato Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said, “This is the first time since the end of World War II that one European country has tried to grab another’s territory by force… “Europe must not turn away from the rule of law to the rule of strongest.” US President Barrack Obama said, “We will defend our Nato allies.” But Ukraine isn’t part of that alliance, and Obama hasn’t suggested he’ll send American troops to faceoff with Russian forces in the country. “We don’t rule anything out,” said David Cameron, adding that he wants ISIS “squeezed out of existence.” ISIS pamphlets have recently surfaced in Peshawar indicating that trouble may soon reinforce the strength of already present militant outfits in Pakistan.
Ukraine, however, is working more and more closely with Nato, as evidenced by the Wales summit. Rasmussen said NATO will give nearly $20 million for Ukraine’s military and focus on bolstering its cyber-defense, logistics and command and control capabilities. “It is definitely a landmark event,” Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said of the “strong, enormous support” that Nato government leaders have afforded Ukraine.
One full session was devoted to Afghanistan. Originally, session on Afghanistan was envisaged as an event of celebration to mark the end of over a decade long Nato involvement in Afghanistan. Afghan Presidential elections envisaged as the first peaceful transition of political power in Afghanistan were to be showcased as a crowning achievement for Nato. However, this got eclipsed as these elections are now haunting the international community as a cause for potential civil war in Afghanistan. To avoid a discussion on Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the US and Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with Nato, neither President Karzai nor either of his likely successors attended the summit. Defence Minister represented the country.
Wales Communiqué on Afghanistan paid tribute to Afghan and international personnel who have lost their lives or been injured. Session on Afghanistan began with an opening ceremony featuring a military serviceman of each nation, paying tribute to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). It was stated that for over a year, Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) have been in the lead for combat operations throughout the country, gaining the respect and confidence of the Afghan people; and when ISAF operations end, the Afghan authorities will assume full responsibility for security—indeed a tall claim.
Post 2014 scope of Nato engagement with Afghanistan will proceed on three parallel yet mutually reinforcing strands of activity:-
- In short term, support shall be provided under the ambient of “Resolute Support Mission”. This will be done through a non-combat mission to train, advice and assist the ANSF. The mission’s establishment is contingent on the signing of the US-Afghanistan BSA and Nato-Afghanistan SOFA. But “without a signature” on the Status of Forces Agreement, “there can be no mission,” Rasmussen said. “Although our military commanders have shown great flexibility in their planning, time is short…The sooner the legal framework is in place, the better”, Rasmussen added, The Resolute Support Mission is likely to be supported by a United Nations Security Council Resolution.
- In the medium term, Nato/ISAF community shall contribute towards financial sustainment of the ANSF through the “Transformation Decade”, on the understanding that the Afghan government will make an increasing financial contribution to this endeavour. Wider international community was also requested to remain engaged in the financial sustainment of the ANSF. “Realizing the full promise of the pledges made at Chicago on the financial sustainment of the ANSF, which we have reaffirmed today, will require transparency, accountability, and cost-effectiveness of the relevant international funding mechanisms…Afghanistan should assume, no later than 2024, full financial responsibility for its own security forces”, the communiqué stated.
- Concept of “Enduring Partnership” shall govern the long term assistance. Nato allies remain committed to the NATO-Afghanistan “Enduring Partnership”. Both political and practical elements of this partnership shall be jointly owned and strengthened through regular consultation on issues of strategic concern. Summit expressed its readiness to work with Afghanistan to develop this partnership in line with Nato “Partnership Policy”, transforming it into an “Individual Partnership Cooperation Programme” at an appropriate time.
Summit resolved to continue to support an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and inclusive peace process, as stated at the 2011 Bonn Conference and at the Chicago Summit in 2012. Wales summit welcomed efforts by all parties that further this process. It highlighted that good neighbourly relations, as well as regional support and cooperation will remain essential, which has been strengthened notably by the Istanbul Process in the Heart of Asia region. Summit expected that stable Afghanistan will be able to make a positive contribution to the wider region through delivering progress in the fight against narcotics trafficking, illegal migration, terrorism and crime.
Summit further resolved to support Afghanistan in making progress towards becoming a stable, sovereign, democratic and united country, where rule of law and good governance prevail and in which human rights, and notably those of children, are fully protected. It emphasized the particular importance of strengthening efforts to implement the rights of women and the “United Nations Security Council Resolutions on Women, Peace and Security”, and to include women fully in Afghanistan’s political, peace and reconciliation processes.
While Nato has helped train a large security force, including troops and police, the Afghans lack critical support systems, such as helicopters, surveillance drones and close air support. However, it is felt that cash-strapped western nations, facing new missions in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, will be hard-pressed to raise the minimum $5-6 billion required each year to sustain ANSF.
A recent Washington Post article “Nato coalition in Afghanistan shrinking” has stated that alongside the exodus of US troops from Afghanistan, soldiers from other countries have been packing up too, leaving behind an ever-shrinking Nato led coalition. As of now 17 countries have just 25 or fewer troops still deployed. The number of non-American troops stands at roughly 14,400 —and is shrinking fast. “There already has been so much blood and treasure invested no one wants to see this turn into what is happening in Iraq right now,” said retired Admiral James Stavridis, who was Nato commander from 2008 to 2013. “I think people realize we need to continue to advice and mentor the security forces for several more years”, he added. Nato has been expanding eastward over the past decade with the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland being the first of the Eastern Bloc countries to join in 1999. These were followed by Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia in 2004 and Albania and Croatia in 2009. Now President Petro Poroshenko has proposed that Ukrainian parliament could abandon non-aligned status and join Nato. Nato leaders discussed everything from Afghanistan to the Middle East to Ukraine. The alliance said it would establish a 4000 strong rapid-reaction force with a permanent presence in Eastern Europe.
Nato struggled to find responses to new challenges, announcing limited steps to deter Russia in Eastern Europe and starting to marshal broader international support to confront ISIS East. However, there was no indication given that NATO, as a group, will be deploying more ground troops anytime soon to any new conflict — as it has done before.
Carried by The Nation on Sept 08, 2014
Disclaimer: Views expressed are of the writer and are not necessarily representative of IPRI policy.