AFGHANISTAN….Relations between U.S. and European forces in Afghanistan have been tense for a while (see the Washington Post story I flagged yesterday for a rundown). The nickel version is that things aren’t going well in the European-run south and American commanders blame it on poor performance from the EU folks. For their part, the Europeans say that Americans screwed things up in the south and then turned it over to them so they could concentrate on the less violent eastern part of the country. A year later, the Europeans are still trying to pick up the pieces there, are dying in higher numbers than Americans, and basically think the U.S. should put a sock in it.
At least, that’s what everybody says is going on, but so far the squabbling has always been anonymous and behind the scenes. But not anymore:
In an unusual public criticism, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said he believes NATO forces currently deployed in southern Afghanistan do not know how to combat a guerrilla insurgency, a deficiency that could be contributing to the rising violence in the fight against the Taliban.
….Gates has publicly criticized European allies in the past for failing to send adequate numbers of troops and helicopters to the Afghan mission. But concerns about strategy and tactics are usually contained within military and diplomatic channels.
In the interview, Gates compared the troubled experience of the NATO forces in the south — primarily troops from the closest U.S. allies, Britain and Canada, as well as the Netherlands — with progress made by American troops in the eastern part of Afghanistan.
….”Our guys in the east, under Gen. Rodriguez, are doing a terrific job. They’ve got the [counterinsurgency] thing down pat,” Gates said. “But I think our allies over there, this is not something they have any experience with.”
Not sure who’s really in the right here, but I thought it was interesting that the spat has now become public. I wonder if any Europeans will respond in public?