NATO, Afghanistan, Iraq: Out of Area, Out of Business?

Is it time to think the unthinkable on Afghanistan and Iraq? What if either or both became failed states, would NATO and the Atlantic alliance survive the shock? This is not just the worry of maverick doom-mongers, but that of NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer in a recent New York Times interview. He reportedly called for cooperation to save the two countries and criticised Washington for abandoning his organisation.

The World Today Published 1 August 2004 Updated 19 October 2020 5 minute READ

Graeme Herd

The outcome of attempts at western-backed state building in Afghanistan and Iraq is precarious. Clearly, strategic failure would increase internal instability and promote the export and spillover into the wider region of the weaknesses, violence and hatreds that these collapsed or failed states would generate.

In addition, failure would provide a massive boost to terrorist groups and, perhaps more importantly, the ideologies that underpin them, representing a catastrophic setback for the global ‘war’ on terrorism.

Given that NATO – the most durable and effective military alliance in history according to its supporters – leads the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan and sixteen of the 25 NATO states have troops in Iraq, including Britain, Poland and the United States, what might be the impact of strategic failure on the transatlantic alliance?

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