NATO Assistant Secretary General for Operations John Manza says the military organization’s security operation in Afghanistan has suffered a “mission slip” that has left it bogged down in the country
BRUSSELS – NATO’s security operation in Afghanistan has been the victim of a “mission slippage” as the military organization has been dragged along to help rebuild this impoverished and conflict-torn country, the official in charge of drawing lessons from the mission said on Wednesday. .
Manza told EU lawmakers that among the big lessons discussed by his team – which also includes input from military and political experts, including from Afghanistan – “the most obvious is mission drift.”
NATO took control of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan in 2003, nearly two years after a US-led coalition invaded the country to oust the Taliban for harboring Osama bin Laden, the late al-Qaeda leader.
Manza explained that he initially had around 5,000 troops based mainly in and around the capital Kabul, but in three years his focus shifted to “tackling the root causes of terrorism” by helping to rebuild a landlocked country torn apart by ethnic and tribal divisions and with a poorly educated population.
NATO’s troop numbers grew to around 60,000 in 2006, with military-civilian teams spread across the largely lawless country, trying to foster economic growth and better governance in nearly every province.
“This really substantial increase did not have the desired effects,” Manza said. “The insurgency continued to grow. The nation still suffered greatly from corruption and the performance of the government was not improving. “
Manza said: “You have to ask, and we have asked a lot in the committee that I chair, were these goals realistic as we had at the time? He said that although the international community did not appear to be achieving its goals, “our response to the slow progress … was to do more”.
“Looking back, it was clear that this massive effort could not be sustained over a long period of time, so it was a transitional effort in different provinces,” Manza said.
Manza shared the initial findings of his committee’s work with NATO defense ministers last week. He is due to submit his final report to the alliance’s foreign ministers when they meet from November 30 to December 30. 1.