Keep in mind that Afghanistan is still considered by foreign policy elites to be the “good war,” with a democratically elected government supported by a UN mandate and the NATO charter’s committment to success. With that in mind, within this BBC article about the upcoming NATO summit was a picture worth a thousand words:
Down in the south, the Brits and Canadians cover their flashpoint areas, while just to their north in Tarin Kowt the Dutch do the same – these are ranged against the “resurgent” Taliban from last summer’s campaign. All along the mountainous, eastern border with Pakistan are US combat units, like bird dogs on point combatting al Qaeda infiltrators.
Note the conspicuous absence of flashpoints around the French, Spanish and German flags. This is no accident, no luck of the draw:
GEOGRAPHICAL CAVEATS – Germany, Italy, Spain and others declined calls in September by NATO to move troops based in calm areas to the violent south to help with fighting. Berlin has insisted the parliamentary mandate covering its 2,900 troops stipulates they remain in the north, apart from one-off forays.
Another example concerns troops based in districts around the capital Kabul. Alliance sources complain that some refuse to go outside their assigned patches, reducing ISAF’s ability to respond to incidents on the ground.
CONSULTATIONS – Most national forces can only do certain tasks after consultation with their capitals — a process that slows down reaction times. At least one government insists on being consulted before its troops are despatched to within one km (half a mile) of the restive border with Pakistan.
OPERATIONAL RESTRICTIONS – National contingents may refuse to carry out operations above a specified altitude because they are not properly equipped: some helicopters, for example, cannot be used above a certain height; another’s troops have limits on what tasks they can perform at night; one NATO source said some south European nations unused to tough Afghan winter conditions have a caveat against fighting in snow, while others ban theirs from riot control operations.
After the Cold War ended, many NATO enthusiasts crowed that their alliance had won the war without firing a shot. Looks like some member states took that as doctrine.