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Wednesday, 21 November, 2001, 13:48 GMT
US wary of peacekeeping
US Special Forces soldiers over Afghanistan
The US wants it soldiers to concentrate on fighting
Jon Leyne

Despite the progress of the war in Afghanistan, divisions have emerged between the United States and its allies over the next steps forward.

While Britain prepares for a major peacekeeping role in Afghanistan, the United States has already virtually ruled itself out.

On the American side, there's been a deep scepticism of peacekeeping, drawn by very bad experiences

James Lindsay
A few days ago, US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, said: "The United States may very well decide that at some point they want to put some additional forces on the ground - for example, for the purpose of repairing an airstrip.

"But in terms of taking US forces and having them become a part of a semi-permanent peacekeeping activity in the country, I think that's highly unlikely."

The simple fact is that the stepped-up training for US troops has been to fight a war, not to keep the peace.

Practised peacekeepers

James Lindsay, a former Clinton administration official, said: "The British are very good at the peacekeeping role, in part because their military leadership has embraced it. They've had a lot of practice, not just in Northern Ireland but also in the Balkans.

Soldiers from the Parachute Regiment
Britain is committed to a major peacekeeping role

"On the American side, there's been a deep scepticism of peacekeeping, drawn by very bad experiences, largely because when American troops go in as peacekeepers, they tend to draw a lot of fire, because we are the superpower."

The US was badly burnt by its experience of trying to keep the peace in Somalia in the early 1990s. Ever since then, the idea of nation-building has been taboo.

But there's a deeper philosophical opposition in Washington to the idea of this superpower dissipating its energy in peacekeeping. The leading right-wing thinker, Frank Gaffney, says it's something US forces simply should not be involved in.

Different goals

"We don't see ourselves as just another nation," he said. "By and large, we think that American military personnel should be not used as constabulary forces when what they've been trained to do, what they've been equipped to do and what, generally speaking, they are needed to do is to protect the peace on a more strategic or global basis."

We don't see ourselves as just another nation

Frank Gaffney
Right-wing thinker

Part of the problem is that Washington is concentrating mostly on destroying the al-Qaeda network, whereas its European allies are focused more on the future of Afghanistan.

"The Bush administration is in a bit of a pinch here, trying to figure out what to do," said James Lindsay. "But it's quite possible that the best outcome may be for America's allies to send peacekeepers in to stabilise it in the interim, and to have a broader-based peacekeeping force later on.

"There's nothing that says that Americans have to go in, or that the British, French and Germans can't go in without the Americans."

The impression in Washington is that this is not a massive policy dispute. Much more controversial will be the next step in the war on terror - the next target for American military action.

See also:

21 Nov 01 | South Asia
Agencies call for Afghan peace force
20 Nov 01 | Americas
Allies 'split': Fact or fiction?
20 Nov 01 | South Asia
Afghanistan's huge rebuilding task
19 Nov 01 | South Asia
US asks 'What next?' in Afghanistan
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