It seems Europe is determined to lose in Afghanistan

Sen. Dick Lugar, the senior Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, isn't the kind of guy who goes around spouting invectives. So when he says something like this, it's worth paying attention: I'm not certain we have a plan for Afghanistan." The comment came at a Capitol Hill hearing yesterday where Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher ...

Sen. Dick Lugar, the senior Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, isn't the kind of guy who goes around spouting invectives. So when he says something like this, it's worth paying attention:

I'm not certain we have a plan for Afghanistan."

The comment came at a Capitol Hill hearing yesterday where Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher insisted the war in Afghanistan is being won. Boucher visited Afghanistan last week and told senators, "Nobody can tell me it's not going in a positive direction." That was enough to prompt Sen. Chuck Hagel to ask the obvious: "If we are making so much progress, why are we putting in 3,200 more Marines?"

Sen. Dick Lugar, the senior Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, isn't the kind of guy who goes around spouting invectives. So when he says something like this, it's worth paying attention:

I'm not certain we have a plan for Afghanistan."

The comment came at a Capitol Hill hearing yesterday where Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher insisted the war in Afghanistan is being won. Boucher visited Afghanistan last week and told senators, "Nobody can tell me it's not going in a positive direction." That was enough to prompt Sen. Chuck Hagel to ask the obvious: "If we are making so much progress, why are we putting in 3,200 more Marines?"

Hagel's question can be answered in one word: Europe. Sec Def Bob Gates is betting that if NATO's European members see more U.S. Marines on the ground, they will be emboldened to send more of their own boys. Gates has reportedly sent stern letters to Franz Josef Jung, the German defense minister, and his other European counterparts asking for more troops. A peeved Jung turned down the U.S. request today, saying Germany's 3,100 troops, stationed mainly in Kabul, are "doing important, useful work."

Now the question is whether the other European NATO members will also fail to heed the warnings detailed in three independent reports this week, including one led by Gen. James Jones, the former chief U.S. commander in Afghanistan, that the war in Afghanistan is being lost. "Make no mistake," the Jones report says (pdf), "NATO is not winning in Afghanistan."

Will Europe sit idly by as Afghanistan is lost? It can't have helped to have Boucher painting a rosy picture on the Hill yesterday. Public opinion in Europe remains staunchly anti-war. A majority of Germans, for instance, say they oppose the continued deployment of German troops in Afghanistan. Now many will ask why their soldiers must remain if things are going so well. To Lugar's point, it doesn't appear the Bush administration has thought this out very well.

But the real blame here is at the feet of the Europeans. There is a broad split between America and Europe on what to do in Afghanistan. Two European diplomats had to be expelled from the country at the behest of U.S. officials after they allegedly held secret talks with the Taliban behind the alliance's back. Reasonable nations can disagree on how and when to negotiate with elements such as the Taliban. But if NATO members cannot support the military effort in Afghanistan, you have to wonder what it is that these countries stand for. A failure in Afghanistan will be judged by history as pure cowardice, and NATO will have been rendered the 21st century's most useless organization.

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