Gen. Karl Eikenberry, who had just arrived as commander of all U.S. troops in Afghanistan in 2005, and newly appointed U.S. Ambassador Ronald E. Neumann were warning Washington that the well-publicised domestic debates in NATO member states over troop commitments were "generating a perception of NATO political weakness," as Neumann recalls in his memoirs on Afghanistan published in 2009.
Neumann wrote that both he and Eikenberry believed "the insurgents would see ISAF's expansion and the U.S. contraction as the moment to rekindle the war."
But Eikenberry assured the news media that the insurgency was under control. In a Dec. 8, 2005 press briefing at the Pentagon, Eikenberry asserted that the more aggressive Taliban tactics were "very much a sign of weakness."
A few weeks later the Taliban launched the biggest offensive since its regime was ousted in 2001, seizing control of much of Helmand, Kandahar and several other southern provinces.
Eikenberry, clearly under orders from Rumsfeld, continued to carry out the policy of turning the south over to NATO in mid-2006. He was rewarded in early 2007 by being sent to Brussels as deputy chairman of NATO's Military Committee.
"The long view of the Afghanistan campaign," said Eikenberry, "is that it is a means to continue the transformation of the alliance."
The Afghanistan mission, Eikenberry said, "could mark the beginning of sustained NATO efforts to overhaul alliance operational practices in every domain." Specifically, he suggested that NATO could use Afghan deployments to press some member nations to carry out "military modernisation".
But Canadian General Rick Hillier, who commanded NATO forces in Afghanistan from February to August 2004 and was later chief of staff of Canadian armed forces from 2005 to 2008, wrote in his memoir "A Soldier First", published in 2009, that NATO was an unmitigated disaster in Afghanistan.
He recalled that when it formally accepted responsibility for Afghanistan in 2003, NATO had "no strategy, no clear articulation of what it wanted to achieve" and that its performance was "abysmal."
Hillier said the situation "remains unchanged" after several years of NATO responsibility for Afghanistan. NATO had "started down a road that destroyed much of its credibility and in the end eroded support for the mission in every nation in the alliance," Hillier wrote.
"Afghanistan has revealed," wrote Hiller, "that NATO has reached the stage where it is a corpse decomposing..."
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