29 November, 2006

NATO summit.

At the Riga summit in Latvia, NATO has a agreed some sort of deal regarding the caveats imposed by some member states on troop use in Afghanistan. Such caveats have prevented NATO commanders in Afghanistan from deploying the troops of certain nations in combat, however dire the emergency. The NATO press release says:

Leaders of the 26 countries agreed to remove some caveats – national restrictions on how, when and where forces can be used – to further strengthen the effectiveness of the NATO-led forces in the country.

They also confirmed that, regardless of the remaining caveats, in situations of urgency, every Ally will come to the assistance of the Allied forces that require it.
It is a start but the obvious questions are: who will define the "situation of urgency" and what precisely is meant by "come to the assistance of "? For example, it is not difficult to foresee that the French, German or Spanish governments might not regard as "urgent" a British unit hanging onto strategic position in Helmand or a Canadian unit in a similar position in Kandahar. Equally, France, Germany or Spain might well interpret "assistance" as evacuation rather than providing combat reinforcements. Furthermore, the possibly empty promises have been given after the major conflict, as a political settlement for Afghanistan begins to loom on the horizon.

The Times remains sceptical of the developments. The BBC seems to take NATO members at their word. More realistically, Monster and Critics headlines its report, "NATO leaders paper over Afghan troop deployment discord."

Reports are also emerging from Canada of a few hundred more troops being sent to Afghanistan , but it is not yet clear exactly how many, or where they are to come from: Globe and Mail and CBC News.

No doubt more details will seep out after the summit as journalists are briefed but, for now,that appears to have been the public face of NATO at Riga.

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