Written by a Conservative member in the North West of England.
NATO has asked the UK to increase its military commitment to Afghanistan. Public perception may be that the war ended in 2014 with the withdrawal of British combat troops, but there is still a conflict there that runs on regardless of how little we talk about it.
All the same, we cannot fight Afghanistan’s war for them. No conflict can be solved by any means except politics (of which war is a tool), and then only by those who live there. A country created by a casual pen stroke, cutting across rivers and valleys with no regard to the geography and culture of the Afghan peoples is not amenable to tidy plans of the well-intentioned but distant.
As the new UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, said in a London speech on 10 May, the actions of states abroad must be made ‘with people at [the] centre of our concerns’. While the UK and NATO can – and should – provide resources and expertise at the request of the Afghan government, only they can provide the direction.
An alliance of sovereign states relies on trust, the sincerity of purpose, and the willingness of members to act. Without these, the Alliance is a paper tiger, without utility and merely taking up space. So yes, if NATO requests greater assistance from our government then the UK must commit. Furthermore, if we see the alliance as a way to magnify our weight on the post-Brexit world, and all the noise from the government has been that we do, we must be seen to pull our weight when duty calls.
Well, it is calling now. The unfinished business of Afghanistan must be revisited by all of NATO and Britain must take the lead if it expects other to follow. By finding new uses for existing institutions, we can attempt to build new purposes and with them forge deeper alliances around the world.
Photo credit: NATO