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Afghanistan and the Future of NATO

Things aren’t going well in Afghanistan. Sometime at the turn of 2001/2002, the Bush administration concluded that the stabilization and reconstruction of Afghanistan was no longer its top priority and decided to bet instead on military-led regime change in Iraq. Afghanistan can thus rightly be seen as the first victim of the administration’s misguided strategy.

But the Bush administration is not the sole culprit for the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan. It was NATO’s job to ensure the country’s stability and security, and thus NATO’s weak General Secretary and the European allies, especially Germany and France, share the responsibility for the worsening situation.

Yet, despite all the difficulties, the situation in Afghanistan, unlike that in Iraq, is not hopeless. There was a good reason for going to war in Afghanistan in the first place, because the attacks of September 11, 2001, originated there. Once undertaken, the West’s intervention ended an almost uninterrupted civil war, and is still viewed with approval by a majority of the population. Finally, unlike in Iraq, the intervention did not fundamentally rupture the inner structure of the Afghan state or threaten its very cohesion.

If the West pursues realistic aims, and does so with perseverance, its main objective – a stable central government that can drive back the Taliban, hold the country together and, with the help of the international community, ensure the country’s development – is still achievable.