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article imageOp-Ed: US ambassador urges Britain to spend Afghan savings on defense

By Eileen Kersey     Jan 1, 2013 in World
The UK and other foreign forces still operating in Afghanistan are being withdrawn. A US ambassador has urged the UK to spend the money it saves by withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan on military investment.
The US ambassador to NATO, Ivo Daalder, has warned that UK under investment in its military will leave too much of a burden on the USA. For many this will be a contentious statement. In Britain, Germany, France and Canada many citizens believe their countries were taken to war too many times by the USA. Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya have cost countries a great deal in time, money and lives. Are any of these countries more secure after the huge loss of life, which has included civilians?
Some countries such as France and Canada have already withdrawn their troops from Afghanistan. The USA and the UK still have a heavy military presence in the country.
A UK government website carries this information as to why the UK is involved in the conflict in Afghanistan, Britain’s own security is at risk if we again allow Afghanistan to become a safe haven for terrorists. The aim of the international community is to prevent Afghanistan being a terrorist sanctuary again.
With our international partners the UK intends to achieve this by supporting the development of a stable country able to take its place within the international community. After the decades of conflict the country has suffered, this is a huge task
Most politicians now accept that in spite of a huge effort the mission in Afghanistan will fail, at least in part. 2012 was a bloody year in Afghanistan with green on blue attacks resulting in military deaths. The so called green on blue attacks involve a person trained as an Afghan police official or member of the Afghan military killing a member of any foreign force. The current death toll for British military personnel serving in Afghanistan is 438 This total is since military action began in 2001. The US military has sustained 2174 deaths.
It is safe to say that all sides have paid a big price.
Now that the operation is drawing to a close many countries are looking at cutting military budgets. In the years since 2001 economies world wide have spiralled out of control. It has been a downward spiral, with austerity now being the buzz word.
Justifying intense investment in defense will be hard for civilians to accept. As services and incomes are cut, investing in what is ultimately destruction will not wash with many people. Arguments about the need for military intervention around the world may not be believed. Too many countries such as those is the Middle East are far from stable after Western intervention.
According to the Guardian the government in the USA has now made the far east and China its priority.
US ambassador to NATO Ivo Daalder has said that Europe has shown itself unable to act without the US. He cites Libya as a prime example. The production of munitions in Europe was inadequate in NATO's mission in Libya and the USA stepped in selling supplies to NATO. As the operation in Afghanistan winds down Daalder has urged that money saved be re-invested in military hardware that will help keep NATO forces capable.
"That investment, that cost of the operations in Afghanistan [should] be retained and be reinvested in re-equipping the force, investing in new capabilities down the line. What we don't want to see is, as the troops come home because the job is done, we take those savings and pump them into other parts of the budget. We would like those savings to be reinvested in real capabilities because, in part, the expenditure on Afghanistan has come at the cost of procuring new capabilities."
What happened before 2001 we wonder? Now that we have endured a protracted conflict do we have to keep funding conflicts as if it is and has to be part of life? Is it not true to say that part of our economic problems is our military over spending and constant interference in selected countries?
Syria could well be our next conflict. Yet many countries around the World could do with a little Western help. In the end does it all boil down to oil?
The ambassador's words may have been meant as a sensible assessment but to small countries that have paid a great price for supporting NATO in Afghanistan they may seem like a slap in the face.
Interestingly enough Nato countries are supposed to commit 2% of their GDP to defence spending, but Daalder said only three – the UK, Greece and Macedonia – were at this level. The US, he said, accounted for 75% of Nato's budget and spent 4% of its GDP on defence.
Little wonder, too, that European countries such as Germany are not feeling the financial pinch to the same extent as others yet.
According to MoD figures, the UK spent £4.1bn on its military effort in Afghanistan in 2011-12. This will fall to £3.6bn in 2013. The Treasury has been pushing for an early withdrawal from Afghanistan to save money and has no plans to increase spending on defence.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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