IMI-Studie 2009/02, in: IMI/DFG-VK: Kein Frieden mit der NATO

The NATO War in Afghanistan:

Prototype for Neoliberal Nation-Building and Civil-Military Counterinsurgency

von: Jürgen Wagner | Veröffentlicht am: 1. Januar 2009


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As NATO assumed command of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan in August 2003, scarcely anyone at that time could have dreamed that the Alliance would be dragged into a guerrilla war that is now taking on increasingly nightmarish features. In this connection, a memo sometimes says more than thousand words. A confidential report by the British ambassador to Afghanistan, Sherard Cowper-Coles, leaked to the press in early October 2008 sums up the entire plight of the NATO engagement there: „The current situation is bad, the security situation is getting worse, so is corruption, and the government has lost all trust. […] The presence of the coalition, in particular its military presence, is part of the problem, not part of its solution. Foreign forces are the lifeline of a regime that would rapidly collapse without them.“1

Nevertheless, a withdrawal of troops is still not being considered at present. The reason for this is simple: there is too much at stake in Afghanistan. In recent years, a completely new form of Western colonial policy has crystallised and is currently being implemented as a prototype in Afghanistan as well as in Iraq, Bosnia and Kosovo. After a launched offensive, all of these countries were put under quasi-colonial administration and their economic systems restructured along neoliberal lines in the guise of „stabilization“ and „nation building“ for the benefit of Western corporate interests. „Protectorates are in,“ explains Carlo Masala of the NATO Defence College (NADEFCOL) in Rome. „From Bosnia via Kosovo, to Afghanistan all the way to Iraq, the pattern of Western intervention policy is always the same. After successful military intervention, the ‚conquered‘ regions are transformed into protectorates, and the Western states attempt to introduce liberal political systems, rule of law and free market economy to these areas.“2 What Naomi Klein describes as the goal of this exercise for Iraq applies to the same extent to Afghanistan and the other Western colonies: „All the careful efforts during the nineties to present ‚free trade‘ as something other than an imperial project were abandoned. […] now there would also be free trade heavy […] seizing new markets directly for Western multinationals on the battlefields of preemptive wars.“3

Yet, as resistance against Western forces particularly in Afghanistan increases, so do NATO’s efforts to find ways of improving its control strategies. For this, it is increasingly focusing on so-called Civil-Military Cooperation (CIMIC), the intention of which is to put civilian capabilities at the service of occupation and counterinsurgency. This approach is being tested for the first time on a large scale in Afghanistan, but is intended to be a future model for all NATO missions. Not least for this reason, resistance in the Hindu Kush must be broken by all means: Afghanistan is the measure of whether NATO will be capable in the future of subjecting further countries to its control. If it fails there, its existence is at stake, as Chancellor Angela Merkel makes clear: „I believe I can say […] that the stabilization of Afghanistan is currently one of the greatest challenges facing NATO and its member states. It is in a sense a litmus test for successful crisis management and a NATO capable of taking action.“4

Stations of Escalation: From Reconstruction to Counterinsurgency

The engagement area of ISAF, which was established in December 2001 and taken over by NATO in August 2003, was at first limited to the Afghan capital of Kabul. Although ISAF likes to call itself a „peace mission“, „stabilization operation“ or „reconstruction mission“ – in short, a sort of „armed foreign aid“ – as part of its image building and to set itself apart from the U.S.-led Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) also operating in Afghanistan, this has nothing to do with the reality of the mission. Particularly after NATO’s attempt to take control of the entire country in four stages, combat actions have been at the centre of operation planning.

In Stage 1, which was completed by the end of 2004, responsibility was assumed for the northern provinces. In the following year, NATO took control of the provinces in the west of the country in Stage 2. This was still relatively unproblematic, as both parts of the country were comparatively peaceful at that time. The present escalation began as the ISAF’s engagement area was expanded in two further stages – the first lasting until July 2006 to include the embattled south (Stage 3) and the second starting in October to include the east and, thus, the entire country (Stage 4). Simultaneously, ISAF forces were increased as part of the expansion to the south from originally 5,000 to 18,500 and, after expansion to the east, to over 30,000 soldiers. Meanwhile, the number of soldiers being sent to the Hindu Kush continues to rise: in 2007, their number climbed from 30,000 to 43,000 and has now reached 51,350 (as of 1 December 2008). According to present plans, the number of troops is to be increased by another 20,000-30,000 soldiers by no later than summer 2009.5

Yet, this has by no means succeeded in „pacifying“ the country. On the contrary, the situation in Afghanistan is now rapidly escalating: in 2007, more than 8,000 Afghans were killed, a great many of which were civilians. Armed clashes between the resistance and ISAF increased from 1,755 in 2005 to over 6,000 in 2007, and rose dramatically again in 2008 to an estimated 10,000. The number of casualties among Western forces also continues to rise: 232 NATO soldiers died in 2007; the following year it was nearly 300.6

Alongside the sending of larger numbers of troops and expansion of the deployment area, the change in the rules of engagement was a major factor contributing to this escalation. The rules of engagement specify the criteria and circumstances under which NATO soldiers may use force in a particular engagement. For a long time, the rules for Afghanistan permitted armed force solely for self-defence in response to an attack. The rules of engagement were changed as early as the beginning of 2006, not least because deliberate escalation of the war was desired through the expansion to the south and east. Since then, active combat against resistance groups has been allowed, changing the character of the ostensible peace and stabilization mission once and for all. In this connection, Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP), which conducts research and advises the Federal Government, notes: „Throughout Afghanistan, the ISAF mission has evolved since 2006 from a regular stabilization operation to an engagement focusing on counterinsurgency.“7

Germany: Sinking Deeper into War, Salami Slice by Salami Slice

The German side likes to emphasise its role in spearheading civilian reconstruction and its command function in the north. The Allies, however, take a different view of the country’s involvement, seeing as German troops are stationed almost exclusively in the comparatively peaceful north. In the east and south, where the most serious clashes take place, it is mostly U.S., Canadian and British soldiers who are doing the fighting and dying.

Against this background, the Allies have been putting significant pressure on Germany since 2006 to increase its participation in combat. This, in turn, has created a problem for the Federal Government: while it fully backs NATO’s current policy of escalation, it is also faced with a population, the clear majority of which categorically opposes the participation of German troops in combat. However, to prevent the loss of its influence not only in Afghanistan, but also in NATO (and beyond), Germany views greater involvement as being absolutely imperative. Only those who wage war will have a say internationally – this is the only way to interpret the still-valid statements made by former Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer about the motivation behind the German Afghanistan engagement: „The decision ‚Germany is not going to participate‘ would mean a weakening of Europe and, in the end, would mean that we would have no influence over the shaping of a multilateral policy of responsibility. This is precisely what it will be about in the years to come. […] How much of a say you will have depends on how much you are involved.“8

On account of this situation, the Federal Government is forced to go forward step by step to slowly „accustom“ the population to Germany’s ever-increasing involvement in the bloody war in the Hindu Kush. The first „milestone“ for this was the deployment of Tornado reconnaissance jets decided in early 2007. The are also used in the south and east, supplying target data on the basis of which bombardments are carried out, which also result in the deaths of numerous civilians. Yet this contribution is not enough for the Allies, as has been made clear rather bluntly in a few instances. Against this background, Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik called upon the Federal Government as early as January 2008 to be guided in the future by the U.S. military strategy in Iraq: „As in Iraq, coalition forces are faced with classical challenges of a counterinsurgency campaign. [That is why] troop presence […] in key areas is needed, backed by targeted offensive military action against extremist insurgents.“ According to this, counterinsurgency efforts should become the focus of planning for Germany and NATO.9

As so often happens, the Federal Government willingly followed SWP’s call a short time later. The most important step here was when the Bundeswehr took over the Quick Reaction Force (QRF) duties from Norway in June 2008. The QRF is a military unit designated explicitly for offensive combat operations with a deployment area comprising northern and western Afghanistan. According to Federal Ministry of Defence spokesman Thomas Raabe, the chief task of the QRF, which is deployed on very short notice anywhere where the resistance has gained ground, is „crowd and riot control“ – in other words, counterinsurgency.10

The assumption of QRF duties moves German foreign missions into a new dimension, as Die Welt made clear in a commentary: „For the first time, the primary focus of a Bundeswehr soldier’s mission is offensive combat. Their predecessors, the Norwegians, told the Germans that they should also start preparing themselves for killing and dying.“11

Meanwhile the next escalation steps are already in the making. For instance, SPD foreign affairs expert Hans-Ulrich Klose urges Germany to make the Quick Reaction Force „strong enough for it to be deployed to the whole of Afghanistan in case of emergency – including the south.“12 First, however, the personnel expansion of the Afghanistan mandate was secured in October 2008. Now Germany is able to send 4,500 Bundeswehr soldiers instead of 3,500 as before. In addition, the mission was extended not to 12, but to 14 months to ensure that the topic does not play a role in the 2009 Bundestag elections. As of January 2009, 30 Bundeswehr soldiers have died in the Afghanistan engagement, ostensibly to promote democracy and human rights – nothing could be further from the truth, as underpinned by Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung: Those in government should finally „make it clear to the German public that historical, humanitarian and superficial material considerations are not the reason for sending German soldiers to trouble spots. In substance, it is about something more fundamental: Germany is making its contribution to upholding the prevailing world order, from which it benefits like few other countries.“13 Actually, however, entirely ordinary material interests naturally also play a role, which is why Germany is so deeply involved in the Hindu Kush.

Neoliberal Nation-Building and Humanitarian Disaster

Alongside Iraq, Afghanistan is currently the most important „nation-building laboratory“14, whose aim it is to illustrate reconstruction of a state from the ground up. What is conspicuous here is the far-reaching consensus within the nation-building community that neoliberal restructuring of a state represents the key condition for its successful stabilization.15 It comes as no surprise, therefore, that the same neoliberal procedure continues to be applied within the context of the present occupation regime: the dumping of state property by means of extensive privatization, opening for foreign investment and commodities, tax exemptions and transfer of profits etc.

Although such „transformational occupations“16 are clearly in breach of international law17 and, in practice, bring about the impoverishment of the population, Afghanistan is also no exception here. In the course of (neoliberal) reconstruction, the country was converted into a supermarket for Western corporations. Germany’s role in bringing this about, meanwhile, is loudly acclaimed by the German Office for Foreign Trade: „A success is the ‚Afghan Investment Support Agency – AISA‘, which was created with the help of the Federal Government and takes care of all formalities for investors within only a week, registers them and issues them a taxpayer identification number. […] The free-market orientation of the economy and protection of investors were incorporated into the new Afghan constitution; […] The Federal Government signed a bilateral investment protection agreement with Afghanistan in April 2005. […] Afghanistan can be described as one of the most open national economies ever – it is definitely, however, one of the most open economies of the region. Trade restrictions and subsidies are practically nonexistent, and the Afghan government is very receptive to investment in the country.“18

The respective part of the Afghan constitution reads as follows: „The state shall encourage, protect as well as ensure the safety of capital investment and private enterprises in accordance with the provisions of the law and market economy.“19 The aforementioned investment protection agreement could be something straight from the devil’s workshop of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Among other things, it contains extensive reductions in customs duties and, with them, the opening of the domestic market to Western products, the privatization of state-owned enterprises and full company ownership by foreign nationals, far-reaching protection from expropriation, a tax holiday for the first eight years as well as complete transfer of profits abroad.20 Likewise given a positive mention, the Afghan Investment Support Agency started by Germany is also proving to be an important catalyst for Western investment. According to its data, more than 6,200 companies have registered as investors since 2003. The agency-recorded investment volume was stated as being around $2.4 billion in early 2008. Among the large foreign investors are Siemens, Tobishima Japan, British Petroleum, Air Arabia, Alcatel, Dagris, Coca-Cola, KPMG, Roshan, Afghan Wireless, Alcatel, Hyatt, Serena Hotels and DHL. German companies, therefore, are not coming away empty-handed.21 These extremely corporate-friendly conditions are justified in typical neoliberal fashion: they are necessary for investment to take place at all, through which economic growth arises, which in turn can help to reduce poverty. It is true, Afghanistan – starting from a very low initial level – is showing economic growth of 8.4% in 2008.22 Nevertheless, this growth – which, moreover, was still in the double digits in previous years – is fed almost entirely by two sources: first, the flourishing drug economy and, second, Western „aid disbursements“. Independent economic activity is scarcely existent, to which the effective ban on protective tariffs contributes, preventing the development of an Afghan industry because it is unable to defend itself against foreign competition.

The effects of this neoliberal „reconstruction policy“ are disastrous above all for the population, as Thomas Gebauer, director of medico international, laments: „The ’new‘ neoliberal economic model prescribed by international advisers has catapulted the unemployment rate to never-before-seen levels. 50-70% of the workforce is trying to survive without any regular income. One after the other, small businesses and the shops of neighbourhood craftsmen have been forced to close after Afghan markets were opened up to cheap foreign products. Uncountable numbers of children survive today by rummaging through waste, shining shoes or begging on the streets.“23 Other sources also confirm this assessment. For instance, the most recent United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) country report arrives at the conclusion that the humanitarian situation has deteriorated even further since the beginning of the NATO mission against Taliban rule. According to the report, 61% of the population is chronically malnourished, and 68% has no access to drinking water.24 Yet in April 2008 President Hamid Karzai still signed the Afghanistan National Development Strategy (ANDS), which was created in close cooperation with the World Bank and is based on the infamous Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSP). The ANDS is an unbroken perpetuation of the previous „reconstruction policy“ along with its central neoliberal assumptions. „The ANDS remains committed to the liberal peace thesis that has determined international engagement in Afghanistan since the Bonn Agreement of December 2001. This assumes that democracy and a free market economy promote internal political peace.“25 The opposite is the case. All over Afghanistan, hunger riots are increasing dramatically, which is why substantial humanitarian aid is urgently needed to alleviate the worst suffering. Yet even here the „international community“ is able to take advantage of the situation for its vested interests.

Pseudo-Aid and Supermarket: Afghanistan, Inc.

The nefarious business of reconstruction has proved to be extremely lucrative. This is because donor countries do their very best to ensure that their aid disbursements end up in the pockets of their own corporations. Although Afghan businesses could do most of the jobs for less money and with greater quality, it is preferred to have Western corporations get rich instead. Caritas Internationalis, for example, criticises the predominant contract awarding process, stating that „[s]ome of this is the result of ‘tied aid’ where donors tie their funding to stipulations that percentages of it go to imported labour and materials – most often from their own countries.“26 According to estimates by Oxfam, 40% of aid disbursements flows in this way directly back to the corporations of the intervening countries.27 „Afghanistan, Inc.“ is the term used by Afghan political scientist Fariba Nawa to describe the practice of reconstruction in her home country primarily serving Western corporate interests.28

Overall, one is struck by the glaring disparity between humanitarian and military missions. The USA alone has so far spent US$172 billion for its war in Afghanistan; Germany has spent about US$3.5 billion. By contrast, just US$15 billion of the US$25 billion in aid for the population committed since 2001 has been provided as of March 2008. Furthermore, these figures must be treated very cautiously, because scarcely any of this money goes to measures for direct poverty reduction. This is connected, firstly, with the tied aid, but also with the fact that a large part of the foreign aid is simply misappropriated for security purposes (see below). In consequence, the entire international community donated a mere US$433 million for health and nutritional programmes between 2002 and 2006. Compared with this, the costs for the one-year extension of the German ISAF engagement alone amount to about US$680 million, and this number is expected to grow. 29

Self-Made Guerrilla War

The current practice of war and occupation is the reason why an increasing portion of the Afghan population regards the Western forces not as benefactors, but as occupiers. Among the Pashtuns, 70% to 80% are against the foreign presence; in the other half of the population, the number is likewise over 50%. 30 As a result, there is also a rise in the number of those willing to use violence to defend themselves against the West, which is increasingly being perceived as exploitative – and certainly not without reason. Opinion polls show that now more than 50% of the Afghan population approves of politically motivated suicide attacks against the occupying forces.31

It would be a gross oversimplification to dismiss the growing resistance as being ideologically motivated – the reality is more complex. On the basis of extensive field research the Senlis Council, a Canadian think tank, concludes that the growing resistance is fundamentally connected to the massive deterioration of the humanitarian situation since 2001. According to the Council, however, the resistance is not composed of religious fanatics – as is constantly suggested in this country – but rather mostly of „poverty-driven ‚grassroots groups'“.32 Even the RAND Corporation, which offers research and analysis to the U.S. Air Force, concludes that only 20% of insurgents can be associated ideologically with the Taliban.33 The Chairman of the German Armed Forces Association, Bernhard Gertz, confirms this assessment: „We were mistaken with regard to the response to our efforts. [Evidently] the assumption that the majority of the population stands behind President Hamid Karzai and the ISAF troops is not entirely correct. We are not being threatened by only a few, determined terrorists. Many Afghans are available as backers.“34

Against this background, the situation for Western troops is becoming increasingly precarious. In September 2008, U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen sounded the alarm by stating to Congress: „I’m not convinced we’re winning it in Afghanistan.“35 A withdrawal, however, is out of the question; therefore the main focus of attention is currently on making counterinsurgency efforts more effective.

Civil-Military Counterinsurgency in Afghanistan

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have shown that „stabilization“ (read: control) within the context of an occupation has become just as significant as the military victory itself. This, however, requires capabilities that are only scarcely available in the military, or not at all. What is needed are lawyers, engineers, military police or „police-soldiers“ who are trained in counterinsurgency, etc. – in short, everything that was required for traditional colonial administration. The central idea of NATO’s „comprehensive approach“, therefore, is to utilise these competencies to achieve military goals by way of „Civil-Military Cooperation“ (CIMIC).

The „logic“ behind this is described by five former NATO generals using the term „integrated approach“ as follows: „We […] firmly believe that one can no longer win in an armed conflict simply by killing or capturing as many of the enemy as possible or by just destroying his power base. Non-military means must be part of an integrated strategy: one in which non-military means are coordinated and deployed with maximum precision, concision and integration […].“36 Hans Binnendijk, another NATO heavyweight, summarises the discussions concerning this topic within the Alliance as follows: „Experience has shown that conflict resolution requires the application of all elements of national and international power – political, diplomatic, economic, financial, informational, social, and commercial, as well as military. To resolve conflicts or crises, [NATO] should adopt a Comprehensive Approach that would enable the collaborative engagement of all requisite civil and military elements of international power to end hostilities [and] restore order.“37

CIMIC, therefore, is explicitly aimed at „involving relevant civilian actors in the planning at the strategic and operative level.“38 Daniel Fried, Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs at the U.S. State Department under George W. Bush, explains what is exactly meant by this: „Many of these new capabilities are being tested in Afghanistan – which is also where we are learning how to better integrate civilian and military efforts. With each passing month, all of us Allies learn more about what it takes to wage a 21st-century counterinsurgency effort – a combined civil-military effort that puts soldiers side by side with development workers, diplomats and police trainers.“39

In practice, this is achieved in Afghanistan through 26 „Provincial Reconstruction Teams“ (PRTs), which are units composed of both military personnel and civilians. Accordingly, their mission is not only to create a „secure environment“, but also to facilitate reconstruction efforts. Hypothetically speaking, therefore, a PRT could distribute food in one area in the morning, carry out a bombing mission in the afternoon, and construct a school in the evening. An article in Small Wars Journal with the revealing title „The Integration of Special Operation Forces and USAID in Afghanistan“ provides a precise description of how USAID contributes directly to the counterinsurgency effort in the country. The objective of USAID’s allocation of funds is to „reward communities who drive insurgents of out of the area“ and to „strengthen local will and ability to resist insurgents.“ Furthermore, a consideration for USAID should be „isolating insurgents from the populace.“ The article comes to the logical conclusion that „development agencies must take the kid gloves off.“40 The military also attempts to use civilian actors as instruments for spying activities. In military-talk, this is explained as follows: „By developing and maintaining relations between the deployed armed forces and the many different civilian and non-governmental actors in the country of operation, information is obtained which the forces use to complete the overall picture.“41

Against this background, in an impressively clear statement issued in June 2008, Caritas Internationalis criticises the fact that „differences in aid disbursement do not correlate well with need, but rather the insurgency.“42 Even Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik arrives at a similar conclusion: „The amalgamation of governmental and non-governmental approaches increasingly robs civilian aid of the very independence it owes to its non-governmental character and causes it to appear as part of the political and military strategy of the countries present in Afghanistan. […] For this reason, locations that receive relief aid are selected according to their military usefulness, while the question of where assistance is needed most or where it can be applied most efficiently plays a secondary role.“43

From Aid Workers to Collaborators to Targets of Attack

Although over 7,500 CIMIC projects are now being carried out in Afghanistan, the vast majority of reconstruction operations take place outside civil-military cooperation, which, moreover, is rejected by nearly all non-governmental organizations. Nevertheless, PRTs are being used successfully to give the impression that humanitarian aid is inseparable from the military and its occupation regime. Even organizations that so far have flatly refused to cooperate with the military are no longer able to communicate their neutral position with credibility. Contributing to the indistinguishability of civilian and military actors are German soldiers in Afghanistan who, according to reports, can be seen driving around in the white SUV-type vehicles traditionally used by humanitarian organizations.44

This foreign aid in combat gear is causing many organizations to lose their political neutrality, which is so essential to providing humanitarian aid and ensuring the safety of aid workers. In the eyes of the Afghan resistance, they are becoming an integral part of the occupation regime and, thus, opponents. According to the Afghanistan NGO Safety Office (ANSO), this resulted in a doubling of the number of armed attacks on NGO employees in 2007. In the first three months of 2008 alone, nine people were killed. The ANSO attributes this development above all to the loss of political neutrality and predicts further degradation of the situation.45 Numerous organizations such as Ärzte ohne Grenzen (Doctors Without Borders) and Welthungerhilfe have already pulled out of Afghanistan, explicitly justifying this move by saying that the mixing of civil and military is making their work impossible.

In spite of this alarming trend – and contrary to its own analyses – Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik calls for a more robust, more comprehensive and significantly stronger institutionalization of civil-military cooperation in Afghanistan in the future: „The Federal Government lacks suitable integrated planning structures and engagement instruments – at both the civil and military level – to carry out a military operation with a focus on counterinsurgency. […] An integrated civil-military command should be responsible for leading an engagement such as that in Afghanistan. […] various civilian organizations could, in this way, be effectively included in the planning and execution of foreign missions.“46 At the same time, „civilian capabilities [should be] integrated into military structures for the duration of the engagement“47 and PRTs used to a greater extent for offensive combat operations in the future: „The PRTs definitely require further development. In light of the deteriorating security situation, they lack operative counterattack reserves that would enable their commanders to take action against aggressors.“48

While the civil-military counterinsurgency approach is currently being field tested in Afghanistan, work is being done within NATO to permanently establish the concept as a new model – the first decisive steps in this direction have already been taken.

The Institutionalization of Civil-Military Counterinsurgency

NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer affirms „that deployments like that in Afghanistan might not be the exception but perhaps the rule in future.“49 Articles in the Alliance’s flagship magazine NATO Review are increasingly calling for post-conflict reconstruction and stabilization operations to „be consolidated, expanded and coordinated under a single, capable organization: NATO.“50

For this reason, there are efforts to give solid form to the still ad hoc civil-military cooperation in Afghanistan. Already at the NATO Istanbul Summit in 2004, it was agreed to make the development of a detailed civil-military occupation concept (at the time still referred to as „Concerted Planning and Action“) at top priority. At the meeting in Riga two years later, it was finally decided to formulate an „action plan“ to give concrete form to the civil-military occupation concept – now called the „Comprehensive Approach“. The action plan initiated in Riga („Comprehensive Strategic Political-Military Plan to Guide NATO’s Engagement in Afghanistan – Internal Planning Document PO (2008) 0059“) was submitted at the NATO Bucharest Summit in April 2008, and its implementation was agreed upon by the heads of state and government. The summit declaration states: „We have endorsed an Action Plan comprising a set of pragmatic proposals to develop and implement NATO’s contribution to a comprehensive approach. These proposals aim to improve the coherent application of NATO’s own crisis management instruments and enhance practical cooperation at all levels with other actors, wherever appropriate, including provisions for support to stabilization and reconstruction. They relate to areas such as planning and conduct of operations; training and education; and enhancing cooperation with external actors. We task the Council in Permanent Session to implement this Action Plan as a matter of priority.“51

The actual contents of the action plan, however, are secret; not even members of the Bundestag have access to it.52 Due to the scarce amount of information available, one can only speculate which measures have already been implemented or are being planned, by examining more closely the proposals currently circulating in this regard: for instance, Peter van Hamm argues in NATO Review for a new basic arrangement between NATO and the EU that would enable civilian EU capabilities to be utilised in the future for NATO occupation and war missions: „The Berlin Plus-arrangement foresaw the EU using NATO resources. Now it is time for a so-called Berlin Plus in reverse, as the Alliance may want to draw upon EU tools like the European Gendarmerie Force (EGF), as well as the EU’s civilian crisis management capabilities.“53 The proposal of Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik is along similar lines, but goes even further to „connect[…] NATO and the EU by creating an operational civil-military EU planning and conduct capability closely linked to NATO’s capacities at SHAPE.“ According to SWP author Ronja Kempin, the advantage of having a third NATO command dedicated solely to civil-military cooperation is that „the civilian and military capabilities of the EU and the military capacity of NATO would be geographically close. […] under the motto ‚Berlin Plus Reversed‘ NATO could be granted the opportunity to draw on the EU’s civilian capacities.“54

Should this development continue unchecked, a complete melding could result, as evidenced by statements by Ortwin Hennig, Commissioner for Civilian Crisis Prevention, Conflict Resolution and Post-conflict Peace-building at the Federal Foreign Office: „NATO, too, has discovered the topic of improved coordination between civilian and military actors. Such a process could result in relations that not only give civilian organizations access to the military capacity of NATO, but also would enable NATO to draw on certain capabilities of civilian organizations.“55 The call of Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik for the creation of a new strategic planning unit in the Federal Foreign Office confirms this fear: „Its task would be to merge the political, economic and military aspects of the counterinsurgency effort. […] With the help of this planning unit, it would be possible to develop and realise a common civil-military strategy for all ongoing foreign missions on a continuous basis.“56 Furthermore, the military should always be in command on the ground: „On an operative level, the integration of civilian and military resources should occur within the engagement command structures of the ministry of defence. […] In general, consideration should be given to incorporating the personnel of the civilian ministries involved in foreign missions into the structures of the defence ministry for the duration of the engagements. […] An important advantage of a civil-military organization specifically responsible for foreign missions would be the ability to guarantee continuity with regard to personnel and content. This unit, for example, could coordinate joint mission preparation for civilian and military personnel.“57

Such proposals must be fiercely rejected. Soldiers are soldiers, and civilians are civilians – both pursue completely different priority objectives, or at least they should. In actuality, humanitarian aid is strictly committed to direct poverty reduction; it must not be used as an instrument to support NATO colonial engagements.

Conclusion: Conclusion: Troops out of Afghanistan – Now!

Notwithstanding all the differences within the Alliance, NATO continues to be immensely important for advancing the interests of its member states. For this reason, the war in Afghanistan must not be lost under any circumstances. Which is why Ronald Neumann, former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, explains: „NATO has made a fundamental commitment to win in Afghanistan. And NATO is either going to win here or fail as an organization.“58 The Afghanistan litmus test must not fail: „Afghanistan is an area of conflict – in every sense of the term. In the Hindu Kush, not only the destiny of the country will be decided, but also the question of whether NATO will be able to successfully transform itself into a stabilising force capable of taking on engagements in any part of the world, and thus into the linchpin of global security.“ 59 For this reason, NATO clings desperately to its policy of escalation. The sober realization, however, remains: „It is the occupation forces that are today the determining force of the central conflict in Afghanistan.“60

What would be necessary, therefore, is a radical change of course – beginning with an immediate withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. The statements by new U.S. President Obama, who wants not only to send considerably more troops to the Hindu Kush, but also to expand the combat area into Pakistan, certainly give cause for concern. It is, however, encouraging to see that, according to polls, 86% of the German population objects to the very principle of combat operations, with 55% calling for a troop withdrawal as soon as possible.61 It is now necessary to make this „opinion-poll peace movement“ visible (Laura von Wimmersperg), thereby putting pressure on the Federal Government to relinquish its fatal policy. The protests against the NATO summit in April 2009 offer the perfect opportunity for this.


1 Sciolino, Elaine: U.S. strategy in Afghanistan will fail, leaked cable says, IHT, 3 October 2008.
2 Masala, Carlo: Managing Protectorates: Die vergessene Dimension (Managing Protectorates: The Forgotten Dimension), in: Politische Studien, January/February 2007, p. 49.
3 Klein, Naomi: Die Schock-Strategie (The Shock Doctrine), Frankfurt 2009, p. 478.
4 Merkel, Angela: Handlungsfähigkeit der Nato stärken (Strengthening NATO’s Ability to Act), 25 October 2006, URL: (14 September 2008).
5 U.S. to add 30,000 soldiers to Afghanistan, Reuters, 20 December 2008.
6 Zahl getöteter US-Soldaten in Afghanistan 2008 gestiegen (2008 sees rise in the number of U.S. soldiers killed in Afghanistan), AFP, 3 January 2009.
7 Noetzel, Timo/Zapfe, Martin: Aufstandsbekämpfung als Auftrag: Instrumente und Planungsstrukturen für den ISAF-Einsatz (Counterinsurgency as Mission: Instruments and Planning Structures for the ISAF Engagement), SWP-Studie (SWP Research Paper) 2008/S 13, May 2008, p. 15.
8 Cremer, Uli: Frequently Asked Questions zum Thema Afghanistan-Krieg im Vorfeld der Bundestags-Abstimmungen zur weiteren Aufstockung des Bundeswehr-Kontingents 2008 (Frequently asked questions concerning the Afghanistan war in advance of the Bundestag vote on sending additional Bundeswehr troops in 2008), revised version 25 August 2008, URL: (11 September 2008), p. 17.
9 Noetzel, Timo/Schreer, Benjamin: Strategien zur Aufstandsbekämpfung (The German Army and Counterinsurgency in Afghanistan), SWP-Aktuell (SWP Comments), January 2008.
10 Cf. Wagner, Jürgen: Lackmustest Afghanistan: Der Hindukusch als Experimentierfeld für Zivil-militärische Aufstandsbekämpfung und Neoliberalen Kolonialismus (The Afghanistan Litmus Test: The Hindu Kush as Training Grounds for Civil-Military Counterinsurgency and Neoliberal Colonialism), IMI-Studie 2008/11, p. 14ff.
11 Neue, gefährliche Aufgabe für die Bundeswehr (New Dangerous Mission for the Bundeswehr), Die Welt, 30 June 2008.
12 SPD-Politiker fordert Bundeswehreinsätze im Süden (SPD lawmaker urges German rethink on Afghanistan), Spiegel Online, 4 February 2008.
13 Neuber, Arno: Die Bundeswehr, Afghanistan und Schwierigkeiten an der Heimatfront (The Bundeswehr, Afghanistan and Difficulties on the Home Front), IMI-Analyse 2007/035.
14 Schmunk, Michael: Die deutschen Provincial Reconstruction Teams. Ein neues Instrument
zum Nation-Building (The German Provincial Reconstruction Teams. A New Instrument for Nation-Building) SWP-Studie (SWP Research Paper), November 2005, p. 8.
15 Cf. for example Dobbins, James F.: Preparing for Nation-Building, in: Survival (Autumn 2006),
pp. 27-40; Barnett, Michael: Building a Republican Peace: Stabilizing States after War, in: International Security (Spring 2006), pp. 87-112. For criticism, see: Pugh, Michael: The Political Economy of Peacebuilding: A Critical Theory Perspective, in: International Journal of Peace Studies, (Autumn/Winter 2005), pp. 23-42; Julien, Barbara: Rethinking Neo-Liberal State Building: Building Post-Conflict Development States, in: Development in Practice (June 2008), pp. 307-318.
16 Cf. Scheffer, David J.: Beyond Occupational Law, in: The American Journal of International Law (October 2003), pp. 842-860.
17 Cf. Oeter, Stefan: Post-Conflict Peacebuilding, in: Friedens-Warte, 1-2/2005, pp. 43, 45.
18 Bundesamt für Außenwirtschaft (German Office for Foreign Trade): Wirtschaftsentwicklung 2006 (Economic Development 2006), 27 November 2006, URL: (8 September 2008).
19 Official Afghan Constitution, Article 10, URL: (8 September 2008).
20 Cf. Baraki, Matin: Afghanistan nach den Taliban (Afghanistan after the Taliban), in: APuZ, No. 48/2004.
21 Bundesamt für Außenwirtschaft (German Office for Foreign Trade): Wirtschaftstrends kompakt Afghanistan 2007/08 (Economic Trends in Brief, Afghanistan 2007/08), 21 February 2008, URL: (9 September 2008), p. 6.
22 Wirtschaftstrends kompakt (Economic Trends in Brief) 2008, p. 1.
23 Gebauer, Thomas: Afghanistan – mit Sicherheit in die Katastrophe? (Afghanistan – Securely into a disaster) medico Rundschreiben 3/2007.
24 Cf. Afghanistan Human Development Report 2007 – Bridging Modernity and Tradition: Rule of Law and the Search for Jutice, UNDP 2007, pp. 18-23.
25 Maass, Citha D.: A Change of Paradigm in Afghanistan, SWP Comments, June 2008, p. 2.
26 Caritas fordert Strategiewechsel für Afghanistan (Caritas urges international support for Afghanistan), 10 June 2008.
27 Waldman, Matt: Falling Short – Aid Effectiveness in Afghanistan, ACBAR Advocacy Series, Oxfam 2008.
28 Fariba Nawa: Afghanistan, Inc., Oakland 2006.
29 For instance, German funds to build up the Afghan police are taken from the budget of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development („Einzelplan 23“) – approximately $135 million by 2008.
30 Brief an den Grünen-Parteitag (Letter to the Greens Party Convention), URL: (9 September 2008).
31 Senlis Council: Afghanistan Five Years Later: The Return of the Taliban, Spring/Summer 2006, p. vi.
32 Senlis Council 2006, p. 60.
33 Ahmed, Samina: Are We Learning? Military Engagement – The Taliban, Past and Present, in: Cheryl, Benard et al.: Afghanistan – State and Society, Great Power Politics, and the Way Ahead Findings from an International Conference, Copenhagen 2007.
34 Afghanistan – Angst vor zweitem Irak (Afghanistan – Fear of a Second Iraq),, 31 May 2006.
35 Top U.S. advisor ’not convinced we‘re winning‘ in Afghanistan, AFP, 10 September 2008.
36 Naumann, Klaus et al.: Towards a Grand Strategy for an Uncertain World: Renewing Transatlantic Partnership, URL: (21 January 2008), p. 131. Emphasis added, JW.
37 Binnendijk, Hans/Petersen, Friis: The Comprehensive Approach Initiative, Defense Horizons (September 2007), p. 1.
38 Paul, Michael: CIMIC am Beispiel des ISAF-Einsatzes (CIMIC as Illustrated by the ISAF Engagement), SWP-Studie (SWP Research Paper), November 2008, p. 11.
39 Fried, Daniel: NATO: Enlargement and Effectiveness, Testimony Before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Washington, DC, 11 March 2008.
40 Mann, Sloan: The Integration of Special Operation Forces and USAID in Afghanistan, in: Small Wars Journal, August 2008.
41 Baumgard, Frank: Zivil-Militärische Zusammenarbeit in der Bundeswehr (Civil-Military Cooperation in the Bundeswehr), in: Wehrtechnik V/2008, 96-105, p. 98.
42 Caritas 2008.
43 Hoffmann, Claudia: Das Problem der Sicherheit für NGOs in Afghanistan (The Security Problem for NGOs in Afghanistan), in: Schmidt, Peter (ed.): Das internationale Engagement in Afghanistan (The International Engagement in Afghanistan), SWP-Studie (SWP Research Paper), August 2008, p. 4955, p. 49ff.
44 Statement by Hans-Joachim Preuß on 25 October 2006, Committee Printed Paper No. 16(19)124.
45 Afghanistan NGO Safety Office, ANSO Quarterly Data Report (Q.1-2008), URL: (8 September 2008).
46 Noetzel/Zapfe 2008, p. 23.
47 Ibid., p. 6.
48 Ibid., p. 27f.
49 Scheffer, Jaap de Hoop: Die Zukunft der Atlantischen Allianz (The Future of the Atlantic Alliance), speech on 7 October 2004.
50 Milkoreit, Manjana: Die zivile Dimension der Sicherheit ernst nehmen: die NATO als die Organisation für den Wiederaufbau nach einem Konflikt (Taking the civil dimension of security seriously: NATO as the post-conflict reconstruction organization), in: NATO Review (Autumn 2007); Bertram, Christoph: Abschied vom Krieg (Farewell to War), in: NATO Review (Spring 2006); Dobbins, James: Die Rolle der NATO beim Aufbau von Staatswesen (NATO’s Role in Nation-Building), in: NATO Review (Summer 2005).
51 Bucharest Summit Declaration, 3 April 2008, number 11.
52 Gebauer, Matthias: Parlamentarier fordern Offenlegung des Nato-Geheimplans (Members of Parliament Demand Disclosure of Secret NATO Plan), Spiegel Online, 11 April 2008.
53 Hamm, Peter van: NATO and the Madonna Curve: Why a New Strategic Concept is Vital, in: NATO Review (March 2008).
54 Kempin, Ronja: Frankreich und die Annäherung von NATO und EU (Could France Bring NATO and the EU Closer Together?), SWP-Aktuell (SWP Comments) 34, April 2008.
55 Roehder, Katja: Die NATO als Kooperationspartner für die Entwicklungspolitik. Neue Konzeptionen zivil-militärischer Zusammenarbeit (NATO as Collaborating Partner for Development Policy. New Concepts of Civil-Military Cooperation), Bonn, December 2005, p. 9.
56 Noetzel/Zapfe 2008, p. 24.
57 Ibid.
58 „Nicht gleich zum Feigling werden“ („We Are Not Going to Evacuate. We Are Not Going Anywhere“), Spiegel 39/2006.
59 Seegers, Sabine: Schlappes Bündnis (A Feeble Alliance), Schwäbisches Tagblatt, 29 September 2006.
60 Buchholz, Christine/Strutynski, Peter: Abzug oder Exit? (Withdrawal or Exit?), in: Marxistische Blätter 3/2008.
61 ARD DeutschlandTREND for Tagesthemen television news magazine by Infratest dimap, 4/5 February 2008 in: ND 19 July 2008.