Europe’s Afghan Test

Now that President Obama has laid down his AfPak strategy, it is time for European governments to follow suit. As I show in this new ECFR brief, they have not yet done enough to become full partners in NATO’s Afghan mission. In an excellent brief issued at the same time as mine, Shada Islam and Eva Gross, two European foreign policy wonks, make a similar case.

European governments have in particular failed to provide staff to civilian bodies like EUPOL, the office of the EU special representative to Afghanistan, or the NATO civilian representative’s office. And while many European governments have pushed for the UN to take on a stronger role in policy development and coordination, few have given the UN mission in Afghanistan and Kai Eide, The UN’s special representative, the necessary support, staff or resources, either in New York or Kabul.

European governments all talk about the “comprehensive approach” -– the need to mix civilian and military instruments — but in the north and central parts of the country, where I just visited (see my travel blog here), there is little evidence of such a policy. Despite the decision last year to bulk up the EUPOL mission to 400 people, actual staffing levels remain at less than half this figure, with many European countries having no personnel in the mission at all.

European governments must do better. In bullet form, they should help:

1. Safeguard the elections
2. Relaunch reconciliation
3. Improve security by training the army and police
4. Change the counter-narcotics policy
5. Target development
6. Support regional diplomacy

I develop each point in the brief with concrete ideas for European leaders to pick up. 

The EU has underinvested in the Afghan mission for years. With the coming US surge, the Afghan elections looming, and failure in the region a real danger, it needs to change course. Not only is it in Afghanistan’s interest; it is also in Europe’s.