It Boils Down To Rules of Engagement

Simply put, the effectiveness of NATO forces in Afghanistan is limited by the commander’s freedom of action, Dell Dailey, the State Department’s coordinator for counterterrorism, said yesterday. “It has got nothing to do with capabilities,” Dailey, a retired Army lieutenant general with special operations experience, told the Defense Writers Group on Jan. 22. “It has got everything to do with the national caveats.” NATO’s International Security Assistance Force, commanded by US Army Gen. Dan McNeill, is supporting Afghan President Hamid Karzai in waging a counterinsurgency there against Taliban elements and al Qaeda extremists. NATO’s forces “are darn good,” Dailey said. “They have got some good special operations forces. They have got some fantastic air. They have got darn good helicopters and good helicopter support.” However, he added, “You go to Dan McNeill and Dan McNeill will say, ‘I need more freedom to use the forces outside of the existing national constraints.’ ” US Defense Secretary Robert Gates last week ruffled the feathers of Canadian and European allies when he said NATO forces are not adequately trained for counterinsurgency operations. After a storm of criticism, Gates clarified his comments, saying he was referring to the alliance as a whole and not to individual members of ISAF, some of which have considerable expertise in this area.