US warns of 'implosion' of Nato alliance in Afghanistan

The US Defence Secretary, Robert Gates, appealed directly to Europeans yesterday to support the war in Afghanistan, warning that violence and terrorism would increase if Nato was defeated there.

Mr Gates said that the transatlantic alliance was under such stress over operations in Afghanistan that it risked imploding. Speaking in Munich to an audience that included presidents, foreign and defence ministers of many EU countries, Mr Gates acknowledged serious shortcomings in Nato operations in Afghanistan.

This was because the alliance was not working properly together to share the burden, he said.

"I am concerned that many people on this continent may not comprehend the magnitude of the direct threat to European security," he said. "We must not – we cannot – become a two-tiered alliance of those who are willing to fight and those who are not. Such a development, with all its implications for collective security, would in effect destroy the alliance."

Mr Gates's words took to a new, and far more acute, level arguments that have become ever sharper in recent months and culminated at an ill-tempered Nato summit in Lithuania last week. While the disputes at the Vilnius summit remained mostly behind closed doors, however, Mr Gates brought them loudly into the open at Munich.

Mr Gates was careful to name no names, but suggestions that some allies were less willing than others to sustain casualties have become a sensitive matter in Germany, where politicians are fending off calls from the Nato command either to contribute more troops to the international force as a whole, or to divert some of the troops serving under German command in northern Afghanistan to the more hostile terrain in the south.

Both the German Foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, and the Defence minister, Franz Josef Jung, who had already addressed the Munich conference, had been at pains to set the record straight from their perspective. They insisted that the total number of German troops had been limited by the Bundestag, and there was little chance of an increase. They insisted, too, that northern Afghanistan was a dangerous place and Germany has taken casualties. They also argued that if, as Nato has proposed, some German troops were redeployed in the south, this would put at risk the continued success of the operation in the north.

German ministers recognise that their unwillingness to redeploy troops or increase the number is seen in some quarters as evidence of something akin to national cowardice.

While it is possible that France will send an additional 1,000 troops to help out in the south, this will not end the argument, which is partly about the whole performance of the alliance in Afghanistan, and partly about broader issues, such as the Nato command structure and commitment of individual members. As other speakers also noted, there was a deep gulf in public support for the operation between the US and many European countries, where it was doubted that success was even possible.

Mr Gates went out of his way to defend the Afghanistan operation as all of a piece with Nato's "core" purpose: "To defend the security interests and values of the transatlantic community". He presented Afghanistan as the epitome, in practice, of the threats that had been discussed by the alliance in theory during the 1990s – with the combination of an unstable state, terrorists linked by new technology; the nexus between drugs, terrorism and organised crime, as well as a "safe haven" that would allow "Islamic extremists to turn a poisonous ideology into a global movement".

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
News
news
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
New Articles
i100... with this review
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
Sport
footballTim Sherwood: This might be th match to wake up Manchester City
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
New Articles
i100
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
News
Blahnik says: 'I think I understand the English more than they do themselves'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
TVInside Downton Abbey series 5
Life and Style
The term 'normcore' was given the oxygen of publicity by New York magazine during the autumn/winter shows in Paris in February
fashionWhen is a trend a non-trend? When it's Normcore, since you ask
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Research Manager - Quantitative/Qualitative

£32000 - £42000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam