Is NATO’s Article Five Being Upheld?

By Jaketapper

Apr 4, 2009 6:25pm

Some in the American military have a derogatory nickname for the ISAF, the ackronym for NATO forces. It actually stands for the International Security Assistance Force. But these soldiers suggest it really means "I Saw America Fight."

Sixty years after the formation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, its American critics suggest its famous Article Five — that an attack on one NATO nation is an attack on all of them — means little. While some NATO countries — especially the United Kingdom — have sent combat troops to the country, and lost treasure, most in the 28-nation alliance have not.

"I worry a great deal about the alliance evolving into a two-tiered alliance in which you have some allies willing to fight and die to protect people’s security and others who are not," Defense Secretary Gates testified before Congress last year. "And I think that it puts a cloud over the future of the alliance if this is to endure and perhaps even get worse."

President Obama Saturday suggested there was no shame in being in the second tier. The up to 5,000 NATO troops who will be helping train Afghan police and Afghan forces, and providing security for the August Afghan elections, are critical, he said.

In fact, he suggested they will be just as critical.

"The trainers that we’re sending in…are no less important than those who are in the south in direct combat with the Taliban," Mr. Obama said. "Because if we can’t achieve these other goals, then we will put more and more of a burden — an unsustainable burden — on those troops that are conducting direct combat operations."

The president said that all "the NATO allies have troops on the ground who are in harm’s way. Our ISAF partners have troops on the ground in harm’s way. They are making significant commitments despite having participated in what has turned out to be a very lengthy operation."

His point: the new strategy in Afghanistan is "to get beyond this notion that somehow there is one kind of troop and one kind of way of accomplishing our mission in Afghanistan."

Critics say President Obama is just trying to spin an inevitable outcome; it was so clear most NATO allies would not send combat troops into Afghanistan he came to Strasbourg knowing he woudn’t even make the request.

What do you think?

- jpt

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