From today's Washington Post:
NATO Conflicted Over Afghanistan
As War-Torn Country Backslides, Allies Differ on How to Stabilize It
KABUL — Four years after NATO began an expanded mission in Afghanistan, members of the 26-nation alliance are divided over anti-drug and reconstruction policies, rising civilian casualties and what some say is heavy-handed U.S. leadership, according to interviews with military officials and diplomats.
Some allies express frustration with the refusal of others to share the dangerous combat roles being assumed almost exclusively by the United States, Britain, Canada and the Netherlands.
NATO's internal conflicts are playing out against a background of increasing violence in Afghanistan, where the extremist Taliban group is resurgent, suicide attacks and roadside bombings are on the rise, and opium production is at an all-time high. [Read the rest of the story…]
Meanwhile the folks at The Torch draw our attention to an inciteful insightful piece by The Toronto Star's Mitch Potter, filing from Brussels, on NATO's frustration at getting thumped by the Taliban when it comes to winning the attention of Western media:
Addressing a Copenhagen gathering of insider delegates, including a sizeable contingent from Canada, [Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer] said NATO is “frankly in the Stone Age” when it comes to many aspects of public diplomacy.
“When there is an incident in Afghanistan, the Taliban are quick to say there have been high numbers of civilian casualties. The wires pick it up, then the TV stations, then the Web,” Scheffer said. But by the time NATO has investigated, checked the results and passed the information through its approval system, “our response comes days later – if we are lucky. By that time, we have totally lost the media battle.”
Scheffer also faulted commanders for tending to deal only with reporters from their own countries.
“The result? The population of Canada thinks Canadian soldiers are fighting alone. So do the British and the Dutch. That undermines solidarity, diminishes the multilateral nature of the operation and makes it harder to sustain,” he said.
“Canadians need to see Danish soldiers in the south, and Romanians and Poles as well as Dutch and British and Estonians and Americans.”
Scheffer's words were music to the ears of Appathurai, who has been the “lone voice” urging his colleagues to awaken to tempo of 21st-century communications. [Read the rest of the story…]