That all changed in February when the Harper Government extended the mission in Afghanistan automatically. Despite the fact that it was about to change dramatically from Peacekeeping to war making.
Clearly NATO forces were not prepared even then to take on war making, it was the Harper government that took the first step to shame NATO into acting on behalf of the Americans.
BBC NEWS | South Asia | Nato's Afghanistan troop dilemma
Monday, 26 December 2005, 10:50 GMT
Nato's very public announcement on 8 December that it will send an additional 6,000 troops to Taleban-infested southern Afghanistan next spring and Washington's more cryptic remarks that it wants to withdraw 4,000 troops from the same region at the same time are being read very differently by all those affected.
Most Afghans and many diplomats in the capital, Kabul, see it as the start of a US withdrawal from Afghanistan, no matter how profusely Washington's spin machine insists that "the US will never abandon the Afghans".
Senior aides to President Hamid Karzai say any US withdrawal, no matter how it is camouflaged, will be disastrous for people's morale and remind them of the US withdrawal from Afghan affairs after the Soviet pullout in 1989.
The administration of President George W Bush sees it as an opportunity to redeem popularity at home by bringing the boys home from a foreign war, even though the militants are far from defeated.
Shifting the burden to the Europeans is also a chance for the US State Department to try to recharge the Atlantic alliance after all the unilateral and isolationist moves undertaken by the first Bush administration.
The Nato deployment, announced with much fanfare in Brussels after a meeting of the 26 foreign ministers of Nato countries, came after months of agonising and countries refusing to take part in the new deployment.
Nato troops are feeling vulnerable after suicide attacks
"When the expansion takes place next year, it will mean Nato is operating in three-quarters of Afghanistan," said Nato Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer.
At present, while the 19,000 strong US-led coalition is responsible for waging war on the Taleban, the estimated 9,000 strong Nato contingent is carrying out peace-keeping duties in Kabul.
In late November, senior White House officials in Washington confirmed to me that the administration would be withdrawing some 4,000 troops from southern Afghanistan next spring, once a Nato-led force was in place.
US officials refuse to use the term withdrawal, insisting it is merely a troops "adjustment" or "rotation".
Are Nato troops really prepared to move beyond peace-keeping duties and take on a combat role in a region which is the hotbed of Taleban activity?
Every single deployment of Nato troops or aircraft since 2003 has led to months of wrangling between European capitals and Nato's high command, played out very publicly in the press.
Even in their peace-keeping role, each Nato country's forces have a list of what they will do and not do - national caveats - that has paralysed Nato commanders in Kabul.
Spanish troops based in the west will rarely leave their compound.
German troops in the north will allow no other Nato troops to fly in their helicopters.
Every nation has a different concept of running a PRT which makes any kind of unified reconstruction programme in the provinces next to impossible.
For the past six months Britain has had tremendous difficulties in getting support from other Nato countries to join it in deploying to six provinces in the south and take over the American base in Kandahar.
Britain and Canada are committed to deploy an estimated 4,000 troops, but they needed another 2,000 more - specifically soldiers who will perform a peace-keeping role in the shape of PRTs, but also would not hesitate to fight if called upon to do so.
Major European countries such as France, Spain and Germany have refused to take part in operations that could involve fighting the Taleban.
The Harper government automatically approved the February redeployment of Canadian forces in Afghanistan knowing they were to be deployed in combat operations in Kandahar. There was no debate. They used their government authority to approve it with no debate.
And they tried to later downplay the combat operations as continuing to be Peacekeeping in a PRT. The reason for Harpers Bush photo-op like visit to Base Kandahar before the real fighting began.
Britain and NATO still had not prepared to take over the operation in Kandahar leaving it to Harper and Hillaire toopportunitically step up to the plate to fill the vacumm betwen the Americans leaving and NATO taking up the slack.
From March through August we were the sole Country in charge of command and control of the transfer of Kandahar from the U.S. to NATO. And Harper knew it.
He knew our mission had changed from Peacekeeping to combat. He knew that in February and refused to present that mission change to Parliament. When he did in May he and his War Minister still refused to say we were going to war.
Contrary to the governments line that an immediate withdrawl of Canadian forces is not possible it is.NATO reviews its mandate and operations in Afghanistan according to the Afghan Accord every other month and at least twice a year.
It's a sad day when the NATO site can only tell us how many troops are in Afghanistan in 2005.
On Aug. 1, U.S. commanders turned over military responsibility for southern Afghanistan to NATO. The alliance force in the south, led by contingents from Britain, Canada and the Netherlands, so far has about 6,000 members, Jones said.
Previously, NATO troops operated largely in the capital, Kabul, and other relatively calm parts of the country. Casualties resulting from their entry into a full-blown combat zone, where the enemy is using weapons and tactics reminiscent of Iraqi insurgents, have rattled public opinion in some alliance countries.
KABUL, Aug 20 (IPS) - Two weeks ago, NATO took over command of insurgency-plagued southern Afghanistan from the United States,NATO's priorities include maintaining security, extending the central government's authority and speeding up the reconstruction process. It will consult and coordinate all its activities with the Afghan government and the international community and would evaluate its strategy every other month and twice a year.
This is where the US-led coalition failed. This decision of NATO is likely to go well with the Afghan government and public.
NATO officials declared that they would not engage in counter-terrorism operations, but would assist the reconstruction process and strongly react to those who intend to disrupt the efforts aimed at extending and strengthening the Afghan government's authority.
|NATO in Aghanistan - Factsheet |
ISAF contributing nations
(as of 21 February 2005)
|former Yougoslov Republic of Macedonia (1)||20|
|Non-NATO / Non-EAPC nations|
The withdrawl of US troops was planned as early as 2003, six years ago, as they cut and ran into a George Bush's private war with Saddam Hussien.
BRUSSELS, Belgium, Dec. 1, 2003 –
The first meeting of the day brought the defense ministers together with NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson. The meeting included what one official called "a good discussion of Afghanistan," as well as the importance of the alliance having "usable" forces organized and equipped to meet 21st-centuray threats.
Robertson has advocated expansion of NATO's contributions in Afghanistan beyond the capital city of Kabul with more provincial reconstruction teams operating in the country. Eventually, U.S. officials said, NATO might absorb U.S. Central Command's Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. They cautioned, however, that such a result would be a long way down the road if it were to happen at all, and the notion is in only the earliest stages of thought and discussion.
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