Setting the record straight in Afghanistan: Need to explain what NATO really did

Alessandro Minuto Rizzo (Facebook)

Alessandro Minuto Rizzo (Facebook)

ROMA: The former number two of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has insisted on setting the record straight on what happened in Afghanistan, making a clear distinction between what the Americans did and what the alliance did.

“In Afghanistan, the mistakes made are there for all to see, but we must be careful not to confuse the United States with NATO, we must distinguish between the protagonists,” Alessandro Minuto Rizzo, the former deputy secretary general of NATO and today president of the NATO defense college foundation, said.

He was the number two of the Alliance from 2001 to 2003, the years when the United States invaded Afghanistan and NATO launched its’ Enduring freedom’ mission.

From August 2003, NATO led the UN-mandated International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) that “aimed to create the conditions whereby the Afghan government could exercise its authority throughout the country and build the capacity of the Afghan national security forces, including in the fight against international terrorism.”

In an interview with Adnkronos, Minuto Rizzo said there had been mistakes and the first mistake was that “there was too much hope of finding a military solution, at least on the American side it was thought that the Taliban could be defeated, and that was a mistake, given what happened in Vietnam or Algeria.”

“There may be temporary successes, but not a definitive victory,” he said.

The second mistake, he said, is that too little has been invested in Afghan structure.

“It was thought that once a government was created, there would be a parliament, elections, that the country would organize itself. But Afghanistan is a very particular country; it has no access to the sea, it is difficult to access, with a substantially tribal history, in Kabul there was a king who reigned, but in the provinces everyone did what he wanted, there is a majority Pashtuns and there are many minorities, the Tajiks, the Uzbeks, the Hazaras … building a national government is a complex thing that takes a long time and we in the West are no longer used to it,” he said.

Minuto Rizzo said that when it comes to mistakes, he would not put the United States and its allies on the same level.

“You have to be very careful with communication, you have to distinguish between the protagonists,” he told Adnkronos.

“The Americans arrived in Afghanistan in October 2001 after the attacks on the Twin Towers, because they wanted to chase Osama bin Laden and they wanted the leader of Al Qaeda to be expelled from the country. NATO arrived two years later and I myself presided over the North Atlantic Council in Kabul on 11 August 2003.”

NATO stayed in Afghanistan with the ‘Enduring Freedom’ combat mission until December 31, 2014.

The NAO mission was completed when the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces assumed full responsibility for security across their country.

NATO left as a fighting force and launched the Resolute Support Mission (RSM) to train, advise and assist Afghan security forces and institutions to fight terrorism and secure their country. The focus was on Special Operations Forces and the Afghan Air Force.

“In Afghanistan, NATO has never had a political function, and was there only as a security framework. The decisions to be taken on elections or on talks between the parties were the responsibility of the Americans,” Minuto Rizza said.

However, during the training, the mistake was to believe that the Afghan military would “obey the flag, when instead they obey first to the clans, to the family … “

“The Europeans could have done more. We supported the Americans in their intervention in the name of the war on terrorism and we thought that Afghanistan would settle down on its own, always leaving the Americans in charge of politics, without ever having a precise picture of the situation.”

For Minuto Rizzo, “the beginning of the end was the Doha agreement, when the Americans said they would leave and Donald Trump had reduced the military presence to 2,500 men.”

In February 2020, the United States and the Taliban signed an agreement on the withdrawal of international forces from Afghanistan by May 2021.

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