The British defense minister, deservedly peeved at the lack of timely support coming from the bulk of the non-English-speaking NATO members while his countrymen fight, criticized the alliance today for its inability to rapidly respond in the Afghan theater.
Nato takes too long to build forces for its missions and needs to be able to respond more rapidly to requests for troops, Des Browne, the UKâ€™s defence minister, said on Wednesday.
Speaking the day before a meeting of defence ministers of the 26-member alliance in Slovenia that is set to discuss a military request for more Nato troops in Afghanistan, Mr Browne said Nato faced a short-term test in getting â€œboots on the ground or the equipment in to support themâ€ in Afghanistan.
He said Nato was rising to the challenge in Afghanistan, where it has more than 20,000 troops in place, but has struggled to find extra forces to meet unexpectedly fierce resistance from the Taliban militia. But he said there were lessons to be learnt from the deployment and he would tell the other ministers that Nato needed to modernise the way it generated its forces.
â€œIt needs to look at its structures and its bureaucracy so that it can generate force in a way that responds in real time to the needs. I think itâ€™s becoming apparent in Afghanistan that the process of discussion is more complex than it needs to be,â€ he said in a telephone interview from Manchester where he was attending the Labour partyâ€™s annual conference.
UK officials said each country needed to look at its own operations but said too many Nato troops were still tied up in headquarters operations, for example.
Mr Browne said Natoâ€™s operations in southern Afghanistan, both those led by the Canadians in Kandahar and the British in Helmand, had been successful, but work was needed in reconstruction to improve the way the country was governed and to build economic opportunities.
Mr Browne said Nato needed to build a more comprehensive approach to its missions, bringing civilian agencies more closely into its operations. Officials said this would require closer co-operation with other bodies such as the United Nations and the World Bank.
Frankly, NATO needs a great many improvements that take precedence over any notion of closer cooperation with the UN. After all, we’re talking about an alliance that suffers delays while just creating a rapid reaction force.