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"No NATO Trainers, no transition to Afghan control", threatens Caldwell
Posted by on September 26th, 2010

From our partners at

By Steve Hynd

The United States, in the person of Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, the man responsible for all training of Afghan security forces, is trying to blackmail its NATO allies into providing more trainers after those allies have dragged their feet on escalating their involvement in the nine-year quagmire.

"We made a decision two or three years ago that we were going to produce war-fighting formations first, and then all the other things that are essential for an enduring force — engineering, medical, communications, transportation, maintenance, logistics, intelligence — that we have not built yet."

The current forces "are very dependent on the coalition forces for all that right now."

Topping his list of 15 immediate priorities was the police force, including paramilitary and border police, followed by air, medical, signals and counter-insurgency capabilities, he said.

"We came up with 684 slots so we can keep the momentum going on the progress we have already achieved this year," he said, adding that 1,500 trainers would be needed over the coming 18 months.

"If we don't get these trainers, no trainers, no transition."

That decision to produce lightly-armed cannon fodder with no back-up formations was essentially a Bush administration unilateral decision, just as it was in Iraq, and for much the same reasons: to keep the locals dependent upon the US just a little longer. Caldwell doesn't address whether it was a good thing - but many analysts argued for a much earlier and better integrated build-up of indigenous logistics, armor, air and command/control capacity as being the best route to local self-sufficiency.

However General Caldwell, who was Bush's hand-picked man to go to Iraq and spin everything he could as "progress", may be over-playing his hand. Even if other NATO nations refuse to provide the trainers he wants, the Dutch have already proven that the NATO charter-call and committment to Afghanistan are unilaterally withdrawable from. If other NATO nations decide to follow suit, that would leave the US pretty much alone in Afghanistan, providing the trainers and holding the bag – the phrase "no trainers, no transition" would be left applying to the US alone. And, so far, none of the US' allies have shown any inclination to buckle to Caldwell's ultimatum.

Such a course of events would probably lead directly to the break-up of NATO and that's really the only thing caldwell has to hold over allied nations' heads. He's gambling that "no trainers, no transition" doesn't turn into "no transition, no NATO".

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