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UK MPs draw, their report curbs the US-NATO strategy followed in Afghanistan

(BRUSSELS2) The United States which leads a "unilateralist" policy. Results that are not up to international efforts for 8 years. A military strategy based on air power which is a mistake in itself. U
ne Europe very present but not powerful and which should be more united. Support for governance that is a failure... If it weren't for the heading, one would have had a hard time believing it, thinking rather of a pamphlet from opponents of the war in Afghanistan or of European utopian views in the bedroom. Nay! This document, published in the middle of August, comes from the very serious Foreign Affairs Committee of the British House of Commons (1). And the deputies gave it their all.  We could say to use this sentence from the battle of Fontenoy (in 1745): English gentlemen, shoot first". They drew...

everything is said in a calm, non-aggressive way, with delicacy, one might say, but not without the touch of irony that kills. Very British, in short. With an edifying conclusion: "Most of the observations gathered come to the conclusion that NATO's engagement in Afghanistan has not been, at least so far, a success." (...) "This is a critical moment and for the future of the Alliance. Without a more equitable distribution of responsibilities and risks (among the allies), NATO's effort will soon be inhibited and its reputation undermined. 'military alliance, capable of undertaking operations outside its area, seriously damaged'. We thus better understand the change in American strategy initiated by the new General McChrystal. It's not an epilogue. This is the last chance to defeat and keep his allies.

The British commitment in Afghanistan since 2001 is not minor. Her Most Gracious Majesty's Kingdom spent on what amounted to over £1 billion in military operations and £1,65 billion in development aid. In the country, there are currently around 9000 Britons and 210 civilians. Since May 2006, the United Kingdom has been present in the south of Afghanistan, in Helmand province. A commitment paid at a heavy price (along with that of Canadians and Americans). The milestone of 200 dead was crossed in mid-August.

Collateral damage is a danger in itself. Several paragraphs are devoted to certain subjects that are quite slightly taboo in official circles, such as civilian losses (NB: about 4 times Allied losses) and the treatment of detainees. In other words, collateral damage. "The use of air power and acts of considerable cultural insensitivity on the part of some coalition forces over a long period of time have caused negative perceptions in (the street Afghan) of the international and military effort in Afghanistan“MPs therefore approve of the change in strategy and guidelines decided by the new chief operating officer of IFAS, US General Stanley McChrystal. MPs”call the government"(British) to take action"appropriate and more proactive protective measures to protect civilians in the future". The conditions in which prisoners and detainees in the hands of the Afghan authorities are treated also remains a "important concern(the treatment of prisoners held by British forces will be included in the annual Human Rights Report).

The danger of an unevenly distributed military charge. The "caveats" posed by several NATO nations are a persistent problem for the military force. And the culprit is named. "While the US, UK and Canada tend to see Afghanistan as a counter-insurgency operation, Germany and a few others (NB: We can name Italy, Finland, in particular) look at it as a stabilization mission". To the point that according to some observers, some forces only represent "little in terms of military action". The risk is also on the fast horizon to see certain countries very committed militarily leave: the Netherlands and Canada (NB: very committed in the South, one in Uruzgan, the other in the province of Kandahar) have already decided not to extend the mandate of their troops, beyond 2010 and 2011 respectively - which could "exacerbate existing problems".

A dispersed Europe that weighs little. MPs believe (kindly) that "the EU effort has not really reached its potential". Yet it is not for lack of commitment. First of all financial: "since the Tokyo donors' conference in 2001, the European Commission has paid around 200 million euros per year (1 billion until 2006, + 610 million for the period 2007-2010). Including the Member States and the community budget, nearly $5,2 billion has been disbursed and $2,3 billion is programmed for the 2008-2011 period.". On the human side also the commitment is not negligible: "25 of the 27 Member States contribute personnel to the ISAF mission. And they lead 10 of the 26 provincial reconstruction teams". Not to mention the police mission (Eupol) or the temporary missions, such as the one that took place during the presidential elections. Despite this, the EU has little weight. There is a need for more coherence between the efforts Member States and the EU. The report mentions the fragmentation in Kabul between the EU special representative, the Commission delegation, the police mission and the presence of embassies of the 16 Member States. an EU country recently told me how shocked he was during his visit to Kabul to see two different EU delegations in the Afghan capital: that of the European Commission and that of the EU. by British diplomacy which believes that the EU could "improve its influence and position inside Afghanistan by harmonizing its political message and using logistical and financial support to obtain political progress from the Afghan government in return for its assistance"...

A unilateral American leadership partially responsible for the failure. The behavior of the United States under the Bush administration is very severely criticized (honestly I have never seen such brutal criticism). "We believe that the responsibility of some, not all, problems in Afghanistan since 2001 can be attributed to the direction of US policy in those years just after the military intervention in 2001. The unilateralist tendencies of the United States under the Bush administration, and its focus on military objectives, exclusion of other strategically important issues set the tone for the international community". The security situation is dramatic. "Particularly in the south (where a majority of British troops are based), will remain precarious for a long time to come. This current instability is having a damaging effect on coalition forces and reconstruction and development efforts.". And help cannot come from the Afghan security forces.

Police reform, a double error. The implementation of a reform of the police - for which Germany was responsible before its transfer to EUPOL - is marking time. Its too slow evolution is "discouraging". However, the deputies believe that the option taken by the United States to assist and train the Afghan police with the US military is dangerous. "The risk is to create a paramilitary style police in opposition to the civil force as originally envisaged and necessary for the future".

L'failure, on the governance and human rights side. The finding is also not encouraging. The creation of an effective system of formal justice - as promised in the Bonn agreement - is a "failure"and most Afghans remain dependent on informal, traditional mechanisms."Eight years after the international community's involvement in Afghanistan, there is virtually no tangible progress in the fight against corruption". While the proposed Family Law legalizing rape within marriage and
submission of women to the Shia represents an "affront" to the values ​​of human decency. As for the fight against drugs, for which the United Kingdom has agreed to provide the international "lead",
it's a "Poisoned gift". Success in this area depends on a range of factors which go beyond the resources and control of the UK alone. MEPs therefore recommend that this function be handed over to (basically get rid of) the United Nations and the United Kingdom. 'ISAF,'better equipped to coordinate the international effort".

In a word, we could say a kind of conclusion: "the international effort in Afghanistan since 2001 has had far less than promised and its impact has been significantly diluted by the absence of a unified vision and strategy, based on the realities of politics, culture and the world. history of Afghanistan. Certainly, the country's current situation is not just the result of western failures since 2001, avoidable errors, including knee-jerk responses, fragmentation and overlaps, make the goal of stabilizing the country. "


(1) Entitled "Global security: Afghanistan and Pakistan", it can be downloaded here.

NB: Let us note in passing how surprising (and regrettable) it is that the European Parliament did not look more seriously to reflect on this European commitment in Afghanistan: its shortcomings, the means of improving it or even studying exits. Because that is what is missing. This defect - due to an incredible pusillanimity - will have to be quickly remedied if this assembly intends, as it proclaims, to exercise its rights in matters of foreign policy. Let's hope that the new EP Foreign Affairs Committee will be able to tackle the issue more vigorously than the old one.

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).

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