Which brings the second benefit: boots on the ground. There are 35,000 non-US troops in the mission. That’s 40% of the total. And that number is going up. Over the last 18 months, about 9,000 extra troops have been provided to the mission from the non-US members. Sixteen countries have increased their contributions over that period. None has cut back. I’m not sure all of this gets as much visibility in the US as it deserves.
And the Allies are not running from the fight, despite the conventional wisdom. 14 countries have forces in the South and East, alongside US forces. And while body count is no measure of solidarity, it is, unfortunately, a symbol of commitment. Over 20 countries have had their soldiers killed, some in large numbers.
Every Wednesday in Brussels, I begin the meeting of NATO Ambassadors by offering my condolences to the countries that have lost soldiers in Afghanistan during the previous week. That has happened every week, without exception, since I took office. I will not accept from anyone the argument that the Europeans and the Canadians are not paying the price for success in Afghanistan. They are.
Let me mention one other benefit that sometimes goes unseen: development assistance. Billions have been pledged to help rebuild Afghanistan, and hundreds of millions have been spent by NATO Allies in Afghanistan. It’s all part of the same package – a team effort to achieve a common goal, at a very high price in blood and treasure. These are not costs the US can afford to pay alone. Because of NATO – through NATO – they are costs we bear together…”
[I]f we are to succeed in Afghanistan, it will only be if we do it together.
I deliberately said “if we succeed”. I know that, despite everything we’ve already done, reaching our goal in Afghanistan is not guaranteed. Which brings me to my second point: we cannot simply continue doing exactly what we are doing now. Things are going to have to change.
Excerpts from speech by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the Atlantic Council.