...that President Bush used a portion of today's speech on the War on Terror to encourage our NATO allies to send more troops to Afghanistan, and ease restrictions on how they can be employed.
As Bill Roggio reports, NATO forces are already battling the Taliban in Helmand Province, in the southern part of Afghanisstan. Taliban forces seized key positions in the region last November, and NATO troops have launched a counter-offensive (labeled Operation Kryptonite) before the spring thaw. More than a few analysts are expecting a major Taliban offensive in the spring, and some have predicted that NATO positions could be overrun, unless some of the "reluctant" alliance members allow their troops to take a more active role in combat operations.
Will that happen? Mr. Roggio has a link to an AP story from Spain, where NATO is holding a meeting. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has been making the rounds in Spain, trying to convince NATO members to send more resources to Afghanistan, in support of a spring push against the terrorists. Not surprisingly, the response from key European allies (Germany, Spain, Italy) has been underwhelming; they question the wisdom of sending more troops, offering quotes that seem to mirror those from Democrats in Congress.
The handwriting on this one seems clear: NATO efforts in Afghanistan--as in Iraq--will largely remain a U.S. and British show, with other alliance members only providing token support. As you might imagine, those "less engaged" nations are the very ones who've adopted a garrison strategy in Afghanistan, refuse to patrol aggressively (if at all), and are most in danger from the Taliban's spring offensive. And, of course, if their positions are overrun, that will provide the pretext for these reluctant allies to end their participation, once and for all.
Back in the days of the Cold War, the standard NATO line was that our European friends would fight "to the last dollar and the last American." Afghanistan is proving (once again) that there was more than an element of truth in that joke.