Business Briefs

NATO's Afghan Quagmire

NATO’s mission in Afghanistan has the potential to become one of the greatest tests for the transatlantic alliance since the end of the Cold War. Following the US-led invasion of the country in 2001, NATO member states willingly provided troops and material support to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), tasked with stabilizing the country. In 2003, NATO assumed the command of ISAF forces as its first ever “out-of-area” mission outside Europe. Ever since, the security situation in Afghanistan has notably deteriorated, the opium trade has flourished, and reconstruction efforts have floundered. Indeed, by 2008, ISAF seemed to be back to fighting a hot-war with a resurgent Taliban in the vast majority of the Afghan territory.

This brief provides an overview of NATO’s mission and strategy in Afghanistan. It explores the deep divisions within the alliance when it comes to Afghanistan and the impact they have had on ISAF’s mission. What do they tell us about the cohesiveness of the transatlantic alliance and the future of NATO? Has the Afghanistan experience provided a new unity of purpose, or further divided the alliance? Finally, the brief considers the plans of the new US administration to reform the Afghanistan mission and the prospects for NATO to extract itself from its Afghan quagmire.

  • NATO’s Mission in Afghanistan
  • Fighting Different Wars?
    • National Caveats
    • Raising Troops
    • Unity of Command
    • Rules of Engagement
  • Future Prospects and Policy Implications


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