When NATO leaders gather for a summit in Istanbul Monday, Afghanistan's security
is expected to be high on the agenda. NATO had pledged to beef up its force outside
the Afghan capital Kabul for upcoming elections. However, NATO member states'
actions have not matched their rhetoric.
Pleading and prodding by U.S., U.N., and Afghan officials have so far failed
to get NATO to come up with more resources to bolster security in Afghanistan.
William Taylor, the U.S. State Department coordinator for Afghanistan, says
NATO needs to keep its promise.
"NATO has made commitments to increase the number of soldiers that are going
to come to Afghanistan in order to secure the elections. They need to do this," he
said. "NATO needs to step up to that promise. It's very important."
In its first-ever mission outside Europe, NATO took control of the International
Security Assistance Force, known as ISAF, last year. With U.N. approval, it
pledged to set up provincial garrisons beyond Kabul for the first time, and
to provide additional soldiers and equipment to improve Afghanistan's security
environment for elections in September.
But member states have been reluctant to contribute resources to the Afghan
peacekeeping effort. Promises of transport planes and helicopters have failed
to materialize. A U.S. suggestion that the scheduled August withdrawal of a
Canadian troop contingent be delayed one month to help with election security
Meanwhile, security in the countryside remains precarious as aid workers
come under attack by warlord-run militias or remnants of the ousted Taleban
regime. Earlier this month, 11 Chinese workers were killed by suspected militants
in Kunduz province. Some analysts say security is actually deteriorating, but
U.S. military officials dispute that.
Speaking recently at a seminar on the Afghan elections at the Center for
Strategic and International Studies, Mr. Taylor said he can not account for
"For the security of the elections in September, this doesn't need to be
a permanent deployment," he said. "This needs to be a temporary deployment.
And so the requirements of putting people in Afghanistan for a long term are
not there. They can deploy for a month or two and really provide that kind
of insurance. So I can't defend NATO's delay at this point."
But Mark Schneider, senior vice president of the International Crisis Group,
which analyzes world trouble spots, says the reluctance to expand ISAF originally
came from the United States. He says that while the Bush Administration now
backs the ISAF expansion, residual displeasure among NATO states over U.S.
action in Iraq has made getting action more difficult.
"The reality is that this administration objected to the extension of ISAF
beyond Kabul until late last summer, and that set in motion a process which,
following Iraq as well, made it much, much more difficult to garner the NATO
countries' support early on," he said.
The elections, which will be for both president and parliament, were originally
scheduled for this month but were delayed until September. Afghan and U.S.
officials have said that another delay is possible - at least in the parliamentary
polls - unless there is a clear improvement in Afghanistan's security environment.