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Afghanistan will unravel NATO, says Canadian general

Almost eight years on, a continued lack of focus and resolve in Afghanistan will be NATO's undoing, Canada's former top general warns in a new book.

Retired general and former Canadian chief of defense staff Rick Hillier General Richard J. Hillier, CMM, MSC, CD, BSc (born 1955), is the Chief of the Defence Staff of the Canadian Forces.

Born and raised in Campbellton, Notre Dame Bay, Newfoundland, he graduated from Memorial University of Newfoundland in 1975 with a Bachelor of Science degree.
 wrote in his autobiography to be published next week: "Afghanistan has revealed that NATO NATO: see North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
 in full North Atlantic Treaty Organization

International military alliance created to defend western Europe against a possible Soviet invasion.
 has reached the stage where it is a corpse, decomposing" and in need of "lifesaving" or "the alliance will be done."

He said the North Atlantic Treaty Organization North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), established under the North Atlantic Treaty (Apr. 4, 1949) by Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Great Britain, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, and the United States.  is vulnerable to "any major setback" in Afghanistan and faces extinction unless it can "snatch victory out of feeble efforts" thus far.

In the book, "A Soldier First: Bullets, Bureaucrats and the Politics of War," Hillier says no Western country had predicted an Afghan resurgence following the early success of the US invasion in 2001.

When Hillier took command of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF ISAF International Security Assistance Force (UN program)
ISAF International Sailing Federation
ISAF International Shark Attack File
ISAF Israeli Air Force
ISAF Information Security Awareness Forum
) years later, "It was crystal clear from the start that there was no strategy for the mission in Afghanistan," he wrote.

"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.

"Sadly years later, that situation remains unchanged."

Hillier lamented "pie-in-the-sky ideas for Afghanistan" that were not backed by firm strategies, clear articulation of goals, political guidance or combat forces. "It was abysmal a·bys·mal  
1. Resembling an abyss in depth; unfathomable.

2. Very profound; limitless: abysmal misery.

3. Very bad: an abysmal performance.
," he said.

At the start of the conflict, European countries rebuffed Canada's joining ISAF. "We were shunned," said Hillier. "They did not want us as part of their alliance."

The British in particular believed Canada had "lost its ability to be a war-fighting nation." They had "no faith that Canada would pull its weight, especially if things got tough."

Eventually, Canada was offered a chance to join a US division in southern Afghanistan, deploying in early 2002 and earning the respect of US commanders as they helped rout Al-Qaeda militants.

When a second ISAF force was sent to rout an insurgency in·sur·gen·cy  
n. pl. in·sur·gen·cies
1. The quality or circumstance of being rebellious.

2. An instance of rebellion; an insurgence.

insurgency, insurgence
, "the Europeans had suddenly warmed to the idea of Canadian participation after realizing the challenges of generating the ISAF force."

Canada sent 2,000 troops to Kabul in August 2003, and assumed command of ISAF in February 2004. Some 2,800 troops are now deployed in volatile Kandahar province until 2011.

Hillier accused NATO of being "dominated by jealousies and small, vicious political battles," adding its "lack of cohesion, clarity and professionalism was ominous" at the start of the Afghan mission.

He lamented that many alliance members are focused on "building their own little fiefdom fief·dom  
1. The estate or domain of a feudal lord.

2. Something over which one dominant person or group exercises control:
" instead of preparing troops for deployment.

In the book, Hillier described the Iraq war Iraq War: see under Persian Gulf Wars.
Iraq War
 or Second Persian Gulf War

Brief conflict in 2003 between Iraq and a combined force of troops largely from the U.S. and Great Britain; and a subsequent U.S.
 as a "distraction" for the Americans. "Perhaps more importantly, the war in Iraq gave the Taliban heart at a time when it was largely beaten."

Most Taliban who would later form the Afghan insurgency were hiding in Pakistan, their leadership almost entirely killed or captured, militants "soundly beaten" in battles with US forces and their source of funding from Muslim world The term Muslim world (or Islamic world) has several meanings. In a cultural sense it refers to the worldwide community of Muslims, adherents of Islam. This community numbers about 1.5-2 billion people, about one-fourth of the world.  supporters drying up.

But the Taliban saw from the few successes of "ragtag rag·tag  
1. Shaggy or unkempt; ragged.

2. Diverse and disorderly in appearance or composition: "They're a small ragtag army of racketeers, bandits, and murderers" 
 insurgents Insurgents, in U.S. history, the Republican Senators and Representatives who in 1909–10 rose against the Republican standpatters controlling Congress, to oppose the Payne-Aldrich tariff and the dictatorial power of House speaker Joseph G. Cannon. " in Iraq that "Western military forces could be hurt and maybe even have their will to fight destroyed."

"They watched, learned and soon began applying the tactical lessons from Iraq in successfully attacking Western forces," Hillier wrote. The Afghan insurgency got its second wind.

Hillier also lamented too few NATO troops in Afghanistan, what he described as a "minimalist approach to Afghanistan that severely constrained the mission there."

It was only with a top-up of American troops this year that the alliance has reached the minimum 70,000 to 80,000 soldiers NATO has said is required to defeat the Taliban, he said.
Copyright 2009 AFP South Asian Edition
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Publication:AFP South Asian Edition
Date:Oct 22, 2009
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