NATO’s Afghanistan Mission Became A Victim Of ‘Mission Creep’: Senior Official

A NATO official tasked with the process of drawing lessons from the Afghanistan mission has said that the security operation of the alliance in Afghanistan became a victim of “mission creep,” as the military organization got dragged into rebuilding the impoverished country.

According to an Associated Press report, Assistant Secretary-General for Operations John Manza and 30 deputy national envoys are compiling a report on the mission in Afghanistan.

The compilation of this report started coming together after the former Afghan president fled the country and the NATO-trained Afghan army collapsed.

Manza told European Union lawmakers that one of the main lessons his team had observed was “the most obvious one…mission creep.” Manza’s team includes military and political experts, including from Afghanistan.

NATO took over the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan in 2003. Manza said that NATO initially had around 5,000 troops based mostly in and around Kabul, but that within three years its focus shifted to “tackling the root causes of terrorism” by helping to rebuild a country riven by ethnic and tribal divisions and with a poorly educated population.

He said NATO troop numbers increased to around 60,000 by 2006 and military-civilian teams were spread across the lawless country in a bid to boost economic growth and governance.

“This really substantial increase did not have the desired effects,” Manza said. “The insurgency was still gaining strength. The nation was still suffering greatly from corruption and governmental performance was not improving.”

Under another surge ordered in 2009 by then U.S. President Barack Obama, NATO troops numbers climbed to over 100,000, while international aid to Afghanistan was substantially increased. The excess aid money began fueling already rampant corruption, the NATO official said.

“Now looking back, it was clear that this massive effort could not be sustained over a long period of time, so these were transient efforts in the various provinces,” Manza said.

Manza shared initial findings of his committee’s work with NATO defense ministers last week. He is due to submit his final report to the alliance’s foreign ministers when they meet on November 30-December 1.