Van Bommel: Crisis in NATO a result of war in Afghanistan

8 February 2008

Van Bommel: Crisis in NATO a result of war in Afghanistan

Despite denials from Dutch Minister of Defence Eimert van Middelkoop, NATO is in crisis. This is the conclusion reached by SP foreign affairs specialist and Member of Parliament Harry van Bommel in the run-up to the NATO summit in Lithuania, during which American Secretary of State for Defence Robert Gates and NATO chief Jaap de Hoop Scheffer are exerting huge pressure on a number of NATO countries to send more soldiers to the south of Afghanistan. “It's obvious that NATO's approach in Afghanistan is simply not working, " said Van Bommel. "The Taliban are growing stronger as a result of the way in which the war is being conducted and of the corruption of the Afghan government under President Karzai, which is losing ever more support amongst the people." Van Bommel argues that the Dutch government must use the summit to put forward demands for a completely different approach.

The conflict in NATO has already lasted for some time as a result of the fact that a large number of member states are opposed to the 'tough' American approach. Countries such as the UK, Canada and the Netherlands have, however, backed the United States' policy, despite its lack of success, while Germany has come under heavy pressure to send combat troops to the south.

Harry van Bommel “The Germans have already got 3,000 soldiers stationed in the relatively peaceful north, but the Americans want to see them in the south as well," Van Bommel explains. "In the south it's all-out war and neither Dutch troops nor anyone else's have been able to halt the Taliban's rise. The completely understandable refusal by Germany shows the tensions which the Afghan war has generated. It is total crisis within NATO, as is also shown by the fact that Defence Minister Van Middelkoop had to go cap in hand last year to his NATO colleagues in order to beg for support for the Netherlands in the province of Uruzgan. Now it's even clearer. Look at the Canadian minority government's threat to withdraw its troops if Canada didn't get military support before this April.”

In the meantime the US government has announced that it will be sending more troops and there are already American plans to take over the military leadership in the south of Afghanistan. “These plans are a result of the row US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates provoked with the Netherlands, Canada and the UK when he said that these countries had not performed well," says Van Bommel. "US leadership means ever more war, and ever more hatred amongst the Afghan people. This is a good way to make the crisis in NATO even worse and the Taliban will be making hay from it. The only way to resolve the problem of the Afghan war and the acute crisis in NATO is to stop the fighting and negotiate with all of the involved Afghan parties to come to an agreement over the future of Afghanistan."

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