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The Battalion (Texas A&M) June 7, 2005

NATO's peacekeeping role should be expanded

By Hayden Migl

The recent transfer of authority in western Afghanistan from the United States to NATO-led forces is an indication of the alliance's ability to provide a multinational peacekeeping force in order to secure peace amid a hostile environment. Similar transitions should follow throughout the rest of the country resulting in a diversified security force. The turnover of power is also a sign of the United States' desire to work with other countries in order to achieve peace in the region.

On June 1, a transfer of power was made from U.S. troops in Afghanistan to a NATO-led force established to provide security in the country. The alliance has taken command of provincial reconstruction teams in the western Afghan cities of Herat and Farah, according to an article on globalsecurity.org. These teams fall under the jurisdiction of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). This force is supported by NATO, authorized by the United Nations Security Council and made up of willing nations, according to the Allied Forces North Europe homepage. The mission of the ISAF is to aid reconstruction efforts and prop up Afghan security forces through training. Its initial jurisdiction was only the capital city of Kabul, but the recent expansion means NATO-led forces are now responsible for the security of about 50 percent of the country.

The United States was justified in its invasion of Afghanistan, but it should hand over the peacekeeping duties in the region as quickly as is safely possible. The transition of authority does not mean U.S. forces will not have a presence in the country since some American forces currently operate under ISAF command. The relinquishing of U.S. control also increases the manpower available to hunt down insurgents in the southern and eastern areas of the country, according to asia.news.yahoo.com.

The region's power transition should be encouraged to increase the international presence. The ISAF provides that presence through a mix of nationalities. Soldiers from Italy are taking charge of one of the reconstruction teams, Spanish forces are running one of the bases, Lithuania is setting up another, and a Turkish lieutenant general heads the entire ISAF, according to globalsecurity.org. In fact, all 26 member countries of the alliance as well as 10 nonmembers have contributed manpower to the ISAF. The nations contributing the most troops are the United States, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Turkey and Belgium, according to the ISAF Web site.

NATO faces many obstacles as it expands its influence in Afghanistan both from insurgents and the tense political situation.

One of the issues arising from the handover of authority concerns NATO's ability to deal with the constant threat of violence. Recent months have been particularly bloody including "a series of political killings, violent protests, attacks on humanitarian workers, and bombings targeting foreigner civilians and troops," according to an article on globalsecurity.org. These concerns were voiced in a column on BBC News which questioned if the ISAF will have the gear necessary to maintain peace or if the U.S. troop withdrawal will leave them under-equipped. NATO has the capabilities to handle unrest, as it showed in Kosovo, and the threat of attacks should not prevent it from expanding its operations in the region.

Another concern is the tension arising from the announcement the United States may establish a permanent military presence by setting up military bases throughout Afghanistan. President Hamid Karzai faces pressure from political opponents due to his acquiescence of allowing a permanent U.S. presence, according to People's Daily Online. Criticisms include a belief Karzai's policy of allowing U.S. military bases is "tantamount to the complete occupation of the country." Decreasing America's military presence in the nation may help alleviate some of the tension, and increasing ISAF troops would help relieve U.S. soldiers in the country.

NATO's expansion into western Afghanistan is beneficial to the war on terror by allowing U.S. troops to focus on other areas of the country. An international presence through the ISAF is what is needed in the region. The experience NATO has in providing infrastructure and reconstruction efforts should be utilized as much as possible to shift the focus of coalition troops to the tracking of terrorists in the south and east portions of the country. NATO should also take this chance to prove it can be a viable player in world politics by showing its effectiveness in securing peace in a hostile environment.


Copyright 2005, The Battalion