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113 4 NATO’S WAR ON TERROR IN AFGHANISTAN consideration of nato’s post-9/11 durability must pay detailed attention to the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan. nato’s involvement in Afghanistan encapsulates the changing role of the organization and has arguably played a big part in shaping its current and future direction. Afghanistan’s transition away from the Taliban ruled regime to a functioning and stable country, moreover, in which there is no threat to nato member states, was identified continually as nato’s main goal in the post-9/11 era.1 The mission was also an important indicator of how the alliance has moved in its conception of self-defense and collective defense—planning for the defense of Europe against the Soviet Union—to recognizing that failed states, far from the borders of nato members, can be threats. The nato operation in Afghanistan also poses some crucial questions : Why is it that nato took such a central role in the conflict, what were the successes and failures of the mission, and what implications will a perceived failure in Afghanistan have for nato’s role in transatlantic security? It is the argument of this book and this chapter that nato was the only organization capable of taking the lead role in the country, that it demonstrated significant resilience in the face of extreme adversity in the country, and, as with previous conflicts, nato’s ability to stay the course in the country was due to a convergence of shared interests and values. This chapter proceeds in four main parts. First, it examines the background to nato involvement in Afghanistan, and why, despite skepticism about the alliance’s utility in the Bush administration, it began to take a very significant role. Second, the chapter examines some of the major operational, strategic and political challenges the alliance has faced. Third, it seeks to explain how the alliance attempted to overcome those challenges and examine why the majority of nato member states remain committed to the operation. Last, the chapter analyzes the end of nato’s combat operations in 2014 and nato’s ongoing commitment to Afghan security through Operation Resolute Support. 114 ◆ nato’s durability in a post–cold war world background to the conflict and nato involvement Afghanistan is a country with a long and proud history, but also a deeply troubled one. It has been subject to many foreign invasions and interventions —the ancient Macedonians under Alexander the Great, the Mongols under Ghengis Khan, and the British in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. The country gained independence in 1919 after World War i and managed to retain a degree of independence through to World War ii and into the early years of the Cold War. However, its geostrategic location eventually brought it into the sights of the superpowers. Soviet forces entered the country in 1979, after the Saur Revolution, in order to bolster the new “Democratic Republic of Afghanistan.” In response, the us government began covertly funding and arming the Mujahideen, enabling them to mount a successful guerrilla insurgency that repelled the occupying forces. After a long and bloody conflict, which ended in the defeat of the Soviets and their withdrawal in 1989, the support from the us and the West evaporated and little was done to help rebuild the war-torn country. Continued internal instability and violence led to the rise of the Taliban, which took power in Kabul in 1996, establishing the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. By the turn of the century, it had control of 95 percent of the country. From an early stage there was concern in the West about the Taliban regime. President Clinton signed an Executive Order in 1999 declaring it to be a state sponsor of terrorism,2 and this was followed by us-sponsored un Security Resolution 1267, imposing sanctions and travel restrictions on the regime. After the attacks of 9/11, the Bush administration demanded that the Taliban surrender all Al Qaeda leaders, close Al Qaeda bases in the country, and surrender “every terrorist and every person in their support structure” to an appropriate authority.3 The Taliban rejected the offer, saying that there was no evidence linking Bin Laden to the attacks.4 This noncompliance led to an intense bombing campaign by us forces and support was given to the rebel Northern Alliance faction, enabling them to push toward the capital, Kabul. The Taliban regime collapsed by December 2001 and American forces entered the country. Support from...


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