Time is running out for success in Afghanistan. The NATO summit in Riga of November 28-29 may be the last chance to pull that country back from the brink.
NATO assumed responsibility for providing security for all of Afghanistan in October. While about 8,000 of the 20,000 US troops in Afghanistan operate independently, the rest have joined the most ambitious military venture in NATO’s history, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
Each of the 26 NATO allies has troops in Afghanistan, as do 11 other countries. Some, like Macedonia and Finland, belong to the Alliance’s Partnership for Peace. Others, like Australia and South Korea, come from farther afield. Soldiers from different countries operate almost as a single unit with shared objectives, similar methods, compatible equipment, and complementary skills. A half-century of working together, plus a decade and a half of adapting to new threats and demands, is paying off.
The bad news is that the 40,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan are not enough. A few Afghan provinces, including those along parts of the border with Pakistan and its Taliban sanctuaries, have little or no ISAF presence and no Provincial Reconstruction Teams.