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Forthcoming NATO report to include ‘hard-hitting' lessons on Afghanistan

Allied officials are soul-searching for answers to the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban in August despite NATO's 20-year effort to shore up the country's security and economic foundations. An initial draft report on the lessons learned will be completed in the coming weeks, according to a top NATO official.

“Was Afghanistan worth it? This is extremely hard to answer,” NATO Assistant Secretary General for Operations John Manza told a 27 October hearing of the European Parliament's Subcommittee on Security and Defence (SEDE).

Manza heads a special NATO committee charged with drawing up the lessons learned based on consultations with officials from allied governments, policy groups, academia, and partner countries that formed part of the coalition in Afghanistan. His initial draft report will be presented to NATO foreign ministers during their 30 November meeting in Riga.

“This will be a chair's report,” he emphasised. “The allies know that to do it officially at 30 would make it difficult to pull out hard-hitting conclusions since consensus would be required,” he observed, noting that some conclusions have already emerged.

One implied lesson is to avoid too much dependence on a mission's geographic neighbours.

“It was difficult to deal with the safe haven issue in Pakistan because it had a lot of leverage over us in terms of its control of supply lines. Was Pakistan the best partner? No, but in realpolitik terms it was difficult to put much pressure on them because of that leverage,” he told the hearing.

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