Saturday, February 10, 2007

US doubts its allies, the consequence of a reputation ...

Doubt over Afghan commitment of Gulf & European countries
February 11, 2007 / PakTribune

Lawmakers of a key Congressional panel have questioned the commitment of major US allies in the Gulf and Europe towards bringing peace in Afghanistan.

Apparently disillusioned over the alleged lackluster role of these countries in Afghanistan, members of the powerful House Committee on Foreign Affairs have urged the Bush Administration that it is right time to rethink their relationship with these European nations and Gulf countries.

If the nations of Europe and the Gulf are unwilling to do their share to protect international security, then perhaps we should rethink the nature of our alliances with them, said Tom Lantos, chairman of the Committee, which plays a key role in shaping US foreign policy.

If American taxpayers are to be expected to allocate an additional 10 and a half billion dollars to Afghanistan, the oil-rich Arab countries in the Gulf should surely be expected to match our contributions at the very least, he said in his speech Wednesday before the Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, at the Capitol Hill.

Lantos, who as part of the Congress delegation led by the House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, visited Afghanistan last month, was particularly harsh on Saudi Arabia -- the most important US ally in the Middle East.

Over past several years, the Saudis have made more than $300 billion in excess oil profits while Americans paid two and a half or three dollars a gallon at pump. Meanwhile, the Saudi contribution to Afghan reconstruction and development has been pathetic, a mere drop in the barrel, Lantos charged.

Urging Rice to make it clear to the Gulf nations that their miserly ways must end, and it must end now, Lantos said: While their fellow Muslims are struggling to survive in harsh Afghan winter, the Saudi royal family is content with handing out a few small coins from its change purse.

Lantos said member nations of NATO must also rethink their knee-jerk aversion to being major players in bringing peace to Afghanistan. Europeans loved NATO when the alliance protected them from the menacing Soviet threat, but their ardor has cooled as NATO is called on to protect Afghanistan from developing into a narco-terrorist state, he charged.

Referring that how the NATO-led force is facing severe crunch of man power in Afghanistan, Lantos said: NATO literally has to beg for troops, and the numbers are still too few -- approximately 35,000, with almost 14,000 coming from the United States.

And those European troops, which are present in Afghanistan, have largely been deployed to the safest areas, leaving the difficult work once again to the US, the Britain and Canadians, he said. Lantos said: Europeans have provided plenty of excuses for their failure to send adequate troops to Afghanistan -- low public support, declining armies, high costs.

Congressman, Dana Rohrabacher (a Republican from California) wanted to know from Secretary Rice why the US allies or at least moderate Muslim states in Gulf have not been spending more money to assist in the development of Afghanistan.

Obviously they are portraying themselves as these solidarity among Muslims, and yet there's great suffering going on in Afghanistan. They have not been stepping up to do their part, Rohrabacher said.