Conservative Party leader David Cameron’s visit to British troops in Helmand is a timely reminder of the unyielding contribution the British armed forces have made to the NATO effort in Afghanistan. As President Obama announces the deployment of up to 30,000 additional U.S. troops for the mission, it is important to reflect on the magnitude of the British effort too: Britain is the second largest troop contributor to the mission, with 9,000 deployed servicemen and more to follow shortly; UK troops continue to operate without national caveats, largely in the South of Afghanistan where the fiercest fighting is taking place; and Britain has taken more casualties than all other European nations combined.
Continental Europe has persistently short-changed the NATO mission in Afghanistan. The United States and the United Kingdom have been forced to shoulder an unfair share of the burden, losing disproportionate amounts of blood and treasure. Responding to President Obama’s new strategy for Afghanistan, NATO Secretary General Rasmussen announced that the alliance will send 7,000 additional troops to Afghanistan in 2010, although at least 1,500 of these troops will come from non NATO members including 900 troops from war-torn Georgia. France and Germany continue to stall for time, delaying a decision possibly until January 2010.
This reluctance comes despite the fact that Afghanistan represents a grave security threat to NATO’s European members. Britain and Europe have faced multiple terror plots which were planned in the Af-Pak region, and will continue to do so for many years to come. For both their own security and for the sake of NATO’s credibility, NATO’s members must do more to support the mission to Afghanistan. A surge of 40,000 troops will give President Obama’s surge strategy a greater chance of succeeding with less risk to the deployed troops. Therefore, it is critical that NATO’s European members send at least 10,000 additional troops together with critical enablers and other resources necessary for victory.