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Analysis: NATO Combats Afghan Deployment Cracks

Council on Foreign Relations

September 19, 2007
Author: Greg Bruno

Opposition leaders in Germany are calling for an end to military involvement (IHT) in Afghanistan. Mounting combat casualties have party leaders in Canada also urging a pullout (TheStar). In the Netherlands, too, lawmakers are mulling a drawdown, frustrated over Dutch forces’ disproportionate share of combat missions in an increasingly restive (AP) south. Should the three countries withdraw, experts say, it would significantly hinder peacekeeping and redevelopment efforts in the war-ravaged country nearly six years after the ouster of the Taliban leadership. Germany, Canada, and the Netherlands are among the top suppliers of soldiers to the alliance, which combined account for 6,800 of NATO’s 39,000 troops (PDF) in the country. The only larger troop contributors are the United States—the single largest with fifteen-thousand troops—and Italy and Britain, which also face domestic pressures to withdraw. “If Afghanistan is NATO’s most important mission, countries should deliver what they promise (IHT),” says NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer.

NATO’s Afghan deployment—the largest-ever for the North-Atlantic alliance and its first mission outside Europe—has become a test case for voluntary international military operations. Some see it as the most significant challenge to NATO in the alliance’s fifty-eight year history. Barnett R. Rubin, an Afghanistan expert at New York University, says NATO and the U.S. must find “successful political consolidation” to win the support of the Afghan population. Helle C. Dale of the Heritage Foundation says to succeed in Afghanistan NATO should seek to expand its troop and funding levels and consider “another round of enlargement.”

But despite appeals for more troop contributions, only eight-thousand soldiers were added to NATO forces in the past year (PDF).

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Copyright 2007 by the Council on Foreign Relations. This material is republished on with specific permission from the Reprint and republication queries for this article should be directed to

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