Tuesday, December 8, 2009

NATO's questionable contribution to Afghan war

By DeWayne Wickham

When President Obama announced last week his decision to send an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan, he made it clear he expects this nation's European allies to also increase their commitment to that conflict. In fact, they need to do more to win the war and preserve the peace.

In his West Point address, Obama said the military campaign against the Taliban and al-Qaeda is an international effort to which NATO must contribute more forces because the alliance's credibility, the security of its allies and "the common security of the world" are at stake. That was a diplomatic way of telling Europe it has as much at risk as does the U.S.

Since the Sept. 11 strikes that sparked the fighting in Afghanistan, al-Qaeda-inspired attacks in London and Madrid have killed nearly 250 people and wounded almost 2,500. Many other attacks apparently have been foiled in Britain, France, Italy, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands.

This, along with pressure from the Obama administration, no doubt contributed to NATO's decision last week to announce that 25 of its 28 member nations will send an additional 7,000 troops to Afghanistan. That's an average of 280 soldiers per country.

"Nations are backing up their words with deeds," NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said, amid reports that the alliance is using fuzzy math. Apparently, some of the NATO "increase" will come from counting international troops who are already in the war zone because their planned withdrawal will be delayed.

Europe can and should do a lot more than that. The U.S. share of the international force in Afghanistan will increase to 98,000 from the 68,000 servicemen and women in that war-torn country. The rise among the remainder of foreign troops will not be as sharp, climbing from 42,000 to 52,000 soldiers, if NATO ultimately meets the U.S. request for 10,000 additional troops.

Even more worrisome, more Americans are being sent to fight Islamic extremists in Afghanistan while anti-Muslim extremism in Europe threatens to fuel the growth of Islamic fanaticism.

Voters in Switzerland recently passed a constitutional amendment that bans the construction of minarets on Muslim mosques. Minarets are towers from which Muslims are called to prayer several times a day. Nearly 6 of 10 Swiss voters backed the ban.
The Swiss vote came a couple weeks after France backed away from banning Muslim women from wearing burqas. The issue heated up when French President Nicolas Sarkozy said that "France is a country that has no place for the burqa."

Sarkozy's concern about the veil seemed misplaced, if not miscreant. Of his country's 5 million Muslims, just 367 women wear burqas, French police reported.Five years ago, France banned Muslims from wearing head scarves in public schools — an action that Osama bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, called "another example of the Crusader's malice."

Add to all of this a growing call in Western Europe for the enactment of immigration laws that target Muslims, and it appears religious intolerance has become the continent's Maginot line against Islamic extremists.

But such acts not only won't make the European countries that embrace them safer, they'll also likely give rise to a new breed of homegrown terrorists — and swell the ranks of the radical Muslims who are fighting the United States-led coalition in Afghanistan.

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