Voice of America reported October 14 that Great Britain is planning on dispatching another 500 soldiers to Afghanistan, if, and this is the big caveat, other NATO states do the same and if, another caveat, the Karzai government agrees to the continued expansion of the Afghan Army.
The story says, “Despite Britain’s growing losses in Afghanistan, Mr. Brown is sending 500 more troops, on the condition that other NATO coalition countries show the same commitment, the Afghan government promises to continue to expand its army, and British soldiers are properly equipped.” Brown is quoted as saying, “I have agreed in principle to a new British force level of 9,500, which will be put into effect once these conditions are met.”
Let’s take a look at the two conditions. First, Brown is calling for his NATO allies to increase their troop levels. This has been a problem since NATO assumed responsibility for the Afghan mission. Canada has repeatedly criticized NATO allies like France and Germany for insufficient troop levels and for restricting the troops that have been provided from dangerous combat duty. National caveats for several NATO states have limited the missions of many NATO troops to those involving humanitarian, training, or infrastructure work, leaving the fighting to the American, British, Canadian and Dutch troops. This situation is unlikely to change any time soon, if ever.
The second caveat is a bit easier to deal with, but it involves shared responsibility. It is doubtful that the Karzai government would refuse an expansion of Afghan national forces, army or police, but the size, capability, and speed with which they can be trained and fielded is largely outside of the government’s control. The training of Afghan security forces is dependent on funding, instruction and equipment from NATO countries. And it takes considerable time to develop a technically and tactically competent military force. So this condition is easy for Afghanistan to agree to, but harder for the NATO coalition to make a reality.
In trying to make the case for greater commitment in Afghanistan, Prime Minister Brown said, “We are there to protect the streets of Britain, we are there because al-Qaida poses a threat to us as well as it does to other countries and we are there because if al-Qaida took control again or had an influence in Afghanistan, under a Taliban government, then the people of this government would not be safe.”
The full story from Voice of America can be found at the link that follows below.