Nov. 5, 2018
Allies That Count: Junior Partners in Coalition Warfare
Years ago, when I was working on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) desk in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, we were asked by both the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations to help persuade allies and partners around the world to contribute additional forces to the mission in Afghanistan. To their credit, many countries around the world did so. But shortly thereafter, operators on the ground began signaling that many such contributions were so difficult to integrate into the mission that it was distracting from ISAF’s ability to prosecute operations. Some states had caveats on their forces, others had interoperability issues, and still others approached the mission with wholly different strategic mindsets than many of their counterparts. In short, we were building the coalition to help us win the war in Afghanistan, but in so doing, we were distracting our warfighters from actually being able to do so. Why were we spending so much time and effort recruiting forces from allies without accounting for the significant operational strains that their incorporation into the ISAF force laydown might cause?