Saturday, 25 February 2012

The Rise of New Powers and the Return of Realism

James Cameron

A soldier on the streets of Salvador ABC/Reuters: Lunae Parracho

In the first week of February, public order collapsed in the third most populous city of the world's sixth largest economy. A strike by the Brazilian state of Bahia's military police force led to the doubling of the murder rate in the local capital, Salvador, two weeks before the start of Carnival. The work stoppage was completely illegal, and it is alleged that officers fomented looting and other public disorder to put pressure on the state government to accede to their demands for a pay rise. Some of the strike's leadership occupied the state legislature, leaving only when they were surrounded by the army, which had been drafted in to restore the rule of law.

Most northern media coverage focused on the consequences for the Brazil's World Cup and Olympics. However, the Bahia police strike points to a far more significant trend: the rise to prominence of states within the international system that combine fast-growing economic and political power with relative domestic weakness. This weakness varies in its forms: in India graft is  widespread and combined with a formidable bureaucracy; in China there is the latent fear of widespread rural unrest if the urban economy ceases to provide jobs for millions of migrant workers. All these countries are marked by relative per-capita poverty when compared to the G7. As such, their rise marks a departure from the post-Cold War norm, when most of the world's prominent states had relatively strong internal structures and wealthy populations.

The consequences of this trend will be both manifold and unpredictable. However, it is likely to presage a return to realism for G7 members, including the UK. On this blog, Jack Barton asked why Britain and other Western countries concentrated on India's status as rising regional power at the expense of the millions who still live in poverty within its borders. The answer came this week in the Indian government's decision to award a $10.4 billion contract for fighter aircraft to France's Dassault Rafale at the expense of the pan-European Eurofighter consortium of which the UK is a member.

As an analysis by the Financial Times showed, both sides offered aid as an inducement. The differences in the packages were telling: the UK pledged £1 billion in the next four years, with most of it to be spent in traditional areas of poverty relief and state strengthening favoured by the Department for International Development (DFID). France, by contrast, focused areas that the Indian state valued as a great power: very generous technology transfer for the new aircraft, combined with cooperation on nuclear energy and a new generation of submarines. One analyst also suggested that the French may have offered the Indians use of their nuclear weapons testing facilities. Despite the Eurofighter's arguable technological superiority, the Indians opted for the Rafale.

India as it wishes to be perceived. Periscope Post/The Prime Minister's Office
DFID's expenditures had no impact on India's decision. India's finance minister Pranab Mukherjee had already spelt it out for the UK: we do not require the aid he said to the Indian parliament's upper house in 2010, describing it as “a peanut” compared to how much the country was already spending on its own programmes. For India, the good the money did was far outweighed by “the negative publicity of Indian poverty promoted by DFID”, according to a memo from the Indian foreign minister to the British government. Far from helping Britain secure the fighter contract, aid is perceived by some in the government as an insulting anachronism of a period when India was just another “Third World” country. The nation that had recognised this shift in Indian perceptions won the contract; Britain was left on the sidelines of one of the biggest defence deals of the decade.

As such, the inducements are there for the foreign emissaries of North America and Europe to treat the rising powers as influential unitary states, foregoing the option of commenting on or attempting to influence their domestic development. This has been the rule for China for years, but will become so for the other rising powers. Twenty years ago, analysts were predicting the death of the nation state in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union and supposed triumph of the transnational values of the market and democracy. It was the duty of Western countries to facilitate the spread of these values by reacting across national boundaries with aid and democracy facilitation projects. In fact the triumph of market forces has produced the opposite effect: the state is back and with it the realist approach to international relations.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

After Afghanistan: Where Next for Britain and NATO?

Sophie Stewart

ISAF Forces gather at the memorial ground of HQ ISAF in Kabul, Afghanistan, Feb. 5, 2012 for the weekly memorial service held for the military service members that gave their lives while performing their duties during the NATO-led security mission in Afghanistan. (Photo by MT VALVERDE Christian French Navy) ISAF

The Government’s confirmation that Britain would be sticking to a 2014 pull-out of forces from Afghanistan, matching the timetable of the US and NATO for withdrawal, finally gives a firm date to the end of operations that have seen British troops on the ground for over ten years. While commitments have been made regarding the continuation of reconstruction and training relationships, the drawn-down in numbers is scheduled to accelerate over the next two years. 
Regardless of how success is to be measured, or how this latest invasion of Afghanistan is judged by history, it has had significant consequences for the way in which NATO and the allied members operate. The forces of the ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) which has operated in Afghanistan over the course of the decade have provided a complex case through which NATO members have, for the first time, operated extensively together out of area and as such the experiences and lessons learnt will undoubtedly have a long-lasting impact on the future of NATO. 
Afghanistan is just the latest of NATO’s operations and as the Strategic Defence and Security Review made clear, NATO remains the bedrock of British defence with the alliance being the highest priority for national security. The UK is a founding member of NATO and to commemorate the 60th anniversary the Foreign and Commonwealth Office have published a work that considers both the transformation of the alliance but also the role that the UK has played and will continue to play in the future. 
British soldiers and Afghan police near Lashkar Gah, Afghanistan MoD Handout/EPA
The first four decades of NATO’s existence were defined by the threat of the USSR; it was the front line of defence in the Cold War in Europe. In 1989, the fall of the Berlin wall and the subsequent collapse of the USSR ended the Cold War which had defined the second half of the 20th century. NATO, whose existence and purpose were so closely associated with the Cold War threat, faced the daunting task of carving a role for itself in the new world. The 1990s saw operations within its usual sphere, conflicts and operations that dealt largely with the aftermath of the collapse of the USSR. The Balkans became the arena in which the consequences of the end of the Cold War were played out. The new style of operations offered a new role for NATO: peacekeeping, stabilisation and reconstruction. The defensive pact was evolving into an adaptive network to deal with security threats to allies. The Balkans however, remained very much ‘within area’, closer to home even than some of NATO’s Cold War activities. The dawn of the 21st century offered greater challenges to NATO’s future, challenges that would require the same skills developed in the Balkans but in much more challenging circumstances. The 21st century began for NATO with 9/11 which for the first time resulted in the activation of the infamous clause 5-‘an attack on an ally is an attack on all’. The scale of NATO operations in Afghanistan has far outstripped previous operations, including those in the Balkans and it’s ‘out of area’ nature is part of the expanded remit and influenced the new strategic concept, accepted at Lisbon in 2010, which will define the focus of NATO over the next decade. 

David Cameron with British and US troops at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan. Photograph: Lefteris Pitarakis/PA Guardian
So what does the future looks like for NATO? Continual adaptation and modernisation are the order of the day. With the confirmation that the draw down in operations in Afghanistan will go ahead in 2014, attention will increasingly focus on what its post-Afghanistan role will look like. The evidence so far is that the emphasis will increasingly be on a comprehensive approach, whereby reconstruction and peace-building operations are carried out through close associations with other organisations, both non-governmental and inter-governmental.
The New Strategic Concept Report concluded that “NATO must reaffirm its core commitment to collective defence; protect against unconventional attacks from terrorists, weapons of mass destruction, cyber assaults, and the like; establish guidelines for operations outside Alliance borders; and create conditions for peace in Afghanistan through, among other things, a comprehensive civilian and military approach.”  NATO is moving in a new direction, with renewed confidence that it will continue to provide an effective tool of collective defence for the growing number of countries affiliated. In Washington on the 5th of January British Defence Secretary Hammond offered Libya, and the role NATO had played in protecting civilians, as an example of NATO's continuing crucial role in the modern world. He said “its flexibility, with an ability to quickly accommodate external partners for specific operations, makes it the most powerful alliance in the world and the most successful tool for collective defence ever invented”. 
This new global role requires NATO adapting to challenges and security threats far removed from the conventional war scenario it was originally designed to meet. The new strategic concept emphasises that NATO must respond to the risk of cyber-attacks and other non-conventional security threats, from anti –terrorism operations that are comprehensive in scope, to dealing not just with military action but cooperation with non-governmental organisations. Missile defence, military modernisation and the continued maintenance of Euro-Atlantic Stability remains the core of NATO’s purpose and yet it has shown that as an organisation it is willing to adapt to the vast array of security challenges its members faced. 
NATO has the capacity to reflect changing realities and evolving priorities in the 21st century-it has successfully transcended its Cold War routes and evolved significantly through its experience in Afghanistan. In proving its continued viability and usefulness, NATO has carved out a new role in the new world, something that two decades ago was far from assured.  Britain has reasserted her commitment to NATO; the Defence Spending Review of 2010 forecasted a military spending at 23%, over NATO’s minimum of 20%, and continues to make almost her entire force capacity available to NATO operations (the figure is around 95%). Withdrawal from Afghanistan is now imminent but it can be assumed that Britain, and NATO more broadly will continue to be a bulwark for the West against future security risks, whatever they may be. 

Friday, 17 February 2012

Heading for an Early Exit?

Ryan O'Sullivan

March 2011: Burhanuddin Rabbani, former Afghan president and head of the High Peace Council addresses delegates as the council meets in Kabul. The Guardian
Afghanistan is in need of strong international political stability, direction and will-power if it is to see a successful transition period in the coming months and years. Such a vision, however, seems fanciful at this current juncture what with the recent rhetoric from the U.S in conjunction with a failure to secure productive negotiations.
The U.S has disproportionately contributed hundreds of billions of dollars to the war in Afghanistan and currently provides nearly 70% of the ground troops, therefore the words used recently by Leon Panetta, The Secretary of State for Defense, are not to be taken lightly. On February the 1st Mr Panetta addressed a group of journalists ahead of a meeting of NATO ministers during which he said:
“And 2013 becomes an even more critical year, more critical because we’ll be going into the final transitions, final tranches, and those’ll be some of the most difficult areas. But nevertheless, you know, our goal is to complete all of that transition in 2013 and then, hopefully, by mid- to the latter part of 2013, we'll be able to make -- you know, to make a transition from a combat role to a training, advice and assist role, which is basically fulfilling what Lisbon was all about.”
This position is not ‘basically fulfilling what Lisbon was all about’. Rather, the Lisbon strategy of November 2010 focused on creating a coordinated approach which brought about a phased transfer of security and responsibility to the Afghan government by the end of 2014. It was about creating conditions that are conducive to a physically secure Afghan state which is equipped with the leadership, resources and experience needed to combat terrorism and a fierce insurgency. It was about analysing the situation on the ground and securing internal and regional relationships, the outcome of which determined the pace of transition and withdrawal.
Instead it seems that the timetable has been brought forward by as much as 18 months and the conditions based approach has been swept to one side, which is a dangerous move. As it currently stands only half of the country’s population is controlled by Afghan National Security Forces, with the support of International Security Assistance Force, and the most dangerous areas are still under the full responsibility of ISAF troops. Indeed, Taliban attacks in the southern and eastern regions of Afghanistan have ‘risen sharply in recent months, according to figures released by the U.S.-led coalition, a sign that the allied offensive against the insurgency is yet to blunt its potency. The figures are in contrast to the broader trend of decreasing violence nationwide depicted by the NATO mission. That depiction is challenged by non-government organizations active in Afghanistan; Human Rights Watch describes 2011 as "the most violent year ever."’

Leon Panetta said Nato forces would begin leaving the front line by mid-2013 Photo: AFP/GETTY. The Telegraph.
In the U.S, public opinion for the war is on the decline, maintaining 90,000 troops is an expensive endeavour and presidential elections are on the agenda. Similar factors affect France as President Nicolas Sarkozy has recently announced an accelerated withdrawal of French combat troops. What this all shows is a further decline in international resolve and credibility, highlighting an inability to fight lengthy wars. This may prove to be damaging in the future.
Yet, even in a situation of military dominance and international resolve, in such wars a political resolution must be had. Internally, this involves the Taliban and the Afghan government; externally it must include regional states, such as Pakistan. With the murder of former President Rabbani, who had been head of the High Peace Council leading efforts to talk with the Taliban, fruitful negotiations do not look likely. 
There is a glimmer of hope and this lies in the potential for talks in Qatar who are to host a Taliban office for talks to begin, but even this is overshadowed with great uncertainty for several reasons. Firstly, the Taliban have not yet said that they want to participate in peace talks and could instead be using the publicity of an office in Qatar to further their cause. Secondly, why would the Taliban want to negotiate when it is quite likely that they see the West as retreating? Thirdly, Hina Rabbani Khar, Pakistan’s foreign minister, has stated that real negotiations are “miles away”. Finally, there are many players that need to be part of negotiations all of whom will have reservations, different ideas on peace talks and mistrust of one another. 
The issue of trust or the lack thereof, is a big one. With its porous border and regional influence, Pakistan must play a significant role in any negotiations concerning the future of Afghanistan. Yet for quite some time there have been allegations of Pakistan’s collusion with the Taliban, its influence on the Taliban leadership and the role of its intelligence agency, the ISI. Given the changing politics, the tenuous security situation and the outlook for immediate negotiations, something needs to change quickly if ISAF is to achieve its main objective: to create the conditions for a sustainable level of security, capable of preventing Afghanistan becoming a terrorist ‘safe haven’ once again. 
In order to combat these issues the U.S must be clear that it stands by its commitment to fight and train with the ANSF right up until the end of 2014 and that this policy will only change if the conditions on the ground permit. This means being flexible with the willingness and ability to commit, in a combat role if necessary, after this date. Let us not forget what Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the NATO Secretary General, said as part of the Lisbon strategy in 2010, “NATO is in this for the long term. We will not transition until our Afghan partners are ready…We will stay as long as it takes to finish our job.” 
If the U.S and other NATO members fail in Afghanistan the fear is not only of a return to a state similar to that of 2001, but of a loss of credibility in NATO itself. This could have terrible consequences for the alliance as its future rhetoric and actions, used to prevent threatening behaviour in support of international security, may not be taken seriously thereby further increasing the threat.