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Afghanistan: NATO Intensifies Its First Asian War

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Afghanistan: NATO Intensifies Its First Asian War
Rick Rozoff

With former Joint Special Operations Command chief General Stanley McChrystal in charge of what will soon be over 150,000 U.S. and NATO troops in the Afghanistan-Pakistan war theater, Washington will conduct its largest counterinsurgency operations since those in Indochina in the 1960s and early 1970s.

NATO, established in 1949 supposedly to confront the Soviet Union and its allies in Central Europe, is waging its first land war almost 3,000 miles east of its former border with the Warsaw Pact.

The world's sole military extending its troop deployments, bases, missile shield components, warplanes and warships to all six inhabited continents, over the past decade to Afghanistan, Australia, Bulgaria, Colombia, Djibouti, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Mali, the Philippines, Poland, Romania and Seychelles.

On January 8 the Washington Post provided North Atlantic Treaty Organization secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen and Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt a column in which the two, while deferring to their big brother in Washington - "The United States has played a central role in defending the values and the security of the Euro-Atlantic community" - nevertheless asserted that "Europe can deliver and can be a real partner for the United States. That is what is happening now in the global mission in Afghanistan." [1]

Unquestioned loyalty to the trans-Atlantic partnership with the United States is synonymous with subordination to NATO, and currently the touchstone for fealty to the military bloc is blind willingness to follow the U.S. further and yet deeper into the increasingly bloody imbroglio in Afghanistan.

In addressing the ongoing and by all appearances interminable colonial war in South Asia, one which cost the U.S. and its NATO allies more lives last year than in any of the seven full years preceding it, the joint propaganda puff piece by Bildt and Rasmussen included the boast that "U.S. allies and partners in the NATO-led military operation have responded clearly to President Obama's decision to significantly increase American troop levels in the mission. In early December, the other members of the mission pledged an additional 7,000 troops, on top of the almost 40,000 non-U.S. troops already on the ground. Non-U.S. forces will eventually be about 40 percent of the total; they already endure about 40 percent of the casualties. There should be no more doubt in the United States on whether America can count on its allies; we are proving that in blood and treasure every day in Afghanistan." [2]

Their arithmetic matches that of U.S. permanent representative to NATO, Netherlands-born Ivo Daalder, who four months ago quantified what it means to be a dependable member of the bloc: "Over 40 percent of the bodybags that leave Afghanistan do not go to the U.S. They go to other countries...." [3] Daalder has long been an advocate of NATO not so much supplementing as replacing the United Nations as arbiter of international conflicts and indeed of all important world issues. [4]

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It is uncertain whether leading Western governments have formally determined what the optimal distribution and division of blood and currency, deaths and dollars/euros between the United States and its NATO partners should be in order to preserve solidarity between members of the "military alliance of democratic states in Europe and North America." Perhaps someone in Brussels and Washington computes that lethal calculus.

Bildt, whose country is not yet a full member of NATO notwithstanding the efforts of himself and co-conspirators to surreptitiously pull Sweden into full integration with the world's only military bloc [5], presumably spoke on behalf of the European Union - though his nation does not currently hold the EU presidency. Spain does.

However, Swedish troops serve under NATO command in Afghanistan and in recent months have been involved in several firefights in the north of the nation, where with fellow former (officially) neutral Finland it is in charge of four provinces for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force. Bildt's nation has lost two soldiers in the Alliance's Asian war, the first it has sacrificed in an armed conflict since the Norwegian-Swedish War of 1814.

On February 4 and 5 the defense chiefs of all 28 full NATO member states and no doubt counterparts from many of the more than twenty partner nations - from Australia to the United Arab Emirates, Mongolia to Colombia, Bosnia to Singapore, Georgia to South Korea - that have provided or pledged troops to the bloc for its first Asian war will meet in Istanbul, Turkey to plan the next phase of the escalation of the the Afghan campaign. "The situation in Afghanistan and sending military reinforcements to join the International Security Assistance Force are expected to be the key matters of the meetings." [6]

5,000 NATO Casualties Predicted For New Year

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What reinforcements from NATO member and partner states will encounter was indicated by retired U.S. general Barry McCaffrey, who earlier this month projected that "US forces in Afghanistan should brace themselves for up to 500 casualties a month this year." The Times of London added "The anticipated increase would produce around 3,000 American casualties this year, and a total for Western forces in Afghanistan of around 5,000 killed and wounded - the equivalent of seven infantry battalions." [7]

By way of comparison, in 2009 there were 512 U.S. Operation Enduring Freedom and NATO International Security Assistance Force deaths in Afghanistan, more than a third of the 1,500 Western fatalities since the war began in October of 2001. McCaffrey's numbers allow for some multiple of last year's combined U.S. and other NATO member and partner combat deaths to occur later this year.

Such is the test - and the price - of the "Euro-Atlantic" partnership touted by Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt and NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

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Rick Rozoff has been involved in anti-war and anti-interventionist work in various capacities for forty years. He lives in Chicago, Illinois. Is the manager of the Stop NATO international email list at:

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