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The Netherlands and Afghanistan: NATO Solidarity vs. War Wariness

Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2011

When the Netherlands and other European members of NATO invoked Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, they almost certainly did not anticipate that, in doing so, they would find their armed forces engaged in a decade-long conflict in Afghanistan. The Article 5 declaration -- holding that Sept. 11 was an attack on NATO's collective security -- was intended as a low-cost gesture of trans-Atlantic solidarity with the United States and the traumatized American people, rather than as an operational commitment to wage a protracted and frustrating conflict.

But through NATO, European militaries became sucked into the Afghan vortex. The persistent lack of enthusiasm for the war effort among European publics, skeptical that their vital interests were at stake in Afghanistan and expecting the United States to safeguard those that were, has harmed trans-Atlantic relations, NATO's warfighting credibility and the collective military effort in Afghanistan. ...

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