Bucharest Offers an Opportunity to Begin Repairing NATO’s Warfighting Capacity

Bucharest Offers an Opportunity to Begin Repairing NATO’s Warfighting Capacity

The harsh words and hard feelings that chilled transatlantic relations in January, when U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates made the mistake of stating the obvious about NATO's mission in Afghanistan, will not be on the agenda during NATO's Bucharest Summit the first week of April. But the source of Gates' frustration that, in his words, most of the allies "are not trained in counterinsurgency" or doing enough in Afghanistan, should dominate the agenda -- and so should the solution.

In many ways, NATO's necessary but nettlesome mission in Afghanistan is a microcosm of its post-Cold War shortcomings: Every member recognizes the challenge and is eager to help. But since the challenge seems so distant and diffuse, every member perceives it -- and prepares for it -- differently. So a handful of countries carry the bulk of the load, with the U.S. shouldering the heaviest burden. The load is made all the heavier when certain members opt out of operations, fail to make good on their pledges or even fail to field battle-ready forces.

To sharpen the point here, Gates and his counterparts know that most of NATO's non-U.S. armies had to hitch a ride with the U.S. Air Force or rent Soviet-era transports to deploy to Afghanistan.

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