On January 21, French Defense Minister Herve Morin announced that the French government would be unwilling to send more troops to assist in NATO-led operations in Afghanistan. Morin’s comments came on the heels of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s announcement the day before that indicated German reinforcements to the NATO mission would not be forthcoming.
Currently 2,800 French and 4,500 German troops serve alongside 32,000 American soldiers in Afghanistan, though many of the French and German soldiers are performing non-combat roles in the more peaceful northern areas of the country.
The timing of these statements coincided with the inauguration of President Obama, who repeatedly pledged during his campaign to boost the number of overall forces serving in Afghanistan, and who just yesterday called Afghanistan and Pakistan “the central front” in the fight against terrorism and extremism. Mr. Obama expressed his desire that any American increase in troop levels would be matched by increases among other NATO forces.
The Heritage Foundation’s vice president for foreign and defense policy, Dr. Kim Holmes, believes that the reluctance on the part of some of America’s major European partners to increase their NATO troop commitments highlights a salient void in the international system that could best be remedied by the formation of a Global Freedom Coalition (GFC).
At the top of the list of institutional reforms must be America’s security associations. NATO is still needed for the defense of Europe and if enlarged will be a vital alliance for out-of-area missions that threaten its interests–such as fighting al-Qaeda and global terrorism. But today, it is not the only partner for America to advance its global interests and values, and despite taking on the lead in Afghanistan, it is too slow, divided, and parochial to become a truly global alliance.
The time may be ripe for America to start looking for additional potential partners that are not already in an existing formal alliance with us. It may also be wise to begin thinking of mechanisms that are not as formal as but are no less dedicated to action than alliances to help advance our security interests. Consultative and planning mechanisms may be the order of the day, rather than rigid promises or commitments. Whatever the mechanism, the days of forming alliances based exclusively on the lines of regional and territorial defense may be over.
Clearly, some new global security association is needed, but what would it look like? Washington should consider forming a Global Freedom Coalition (GFC)–a voluntary association of like-minded nations around the world that is premised on two fundamental principles: first, that security and liberty (which encompasses civil, economic, and political freedoms) are inextricably linked in that, as the United States and its partners promote global conditions conducive to the strengthening of free societies, they are simultaneously enhancing their own national security interests and, second, that broader multilateral security cooperation becomes more critical as global economic power becomes more diffuse and global threats increase.