Other Hotspots Pull NATO Away From Kosovo
SCOTT SIMON, host:
NATO is planning to further reduce the number of its troops in Kosovo - maybe by another 5,000. While most of the alliance's attention is directed toward Afghanistan, it still has almost 15,000 troops deployed in Kosovo, which is already down from the 50,000 troops that were deployed in that region in 1999.
We're joined now on the phone by Lord Paddy Ashdown. He was the high representative of the international community in Bosnia and Herzegovina from 2002 to 2006. Of course, he was also leader of Britain's Liberal Party and a serious soldier - former Royal Marine and commando leader. He joins us from his home in Somerset, England. Lord Ashdown, thanks so much for being with us again.
Lord PADDY ASHDOWN (Former High Representative of International Community in Bosnia and Herzegovina): Hi, nice to be with you again, Scott.
SIMON: So, is Kosovo ready to lose all these troops?
Lord ASHDOWN: You know, Scott, I think it is, generally speaking. I mean, I'm glad that there are some staying. But, you know, as things move towards peace, so you can downscale the number of troops you have. This is near - this is 10 years later. By the way, Scott, my guess is we'll be in Afghanistan at least for a period of time like that, but not with the same number of troops that we have at present, but with fewer numbers as the risk goes down.
My own calculation is that although things are not yet absolutely stable and secure in Kosovo, but the reality is that neighboring Albania, neighboring Macedonia, and above all and most important, neighboring Serbia, are now moving towards the European Union. And their concentration is not on making war against neighboring territories but trying to fulfill the conditions to join the Union.
SIMON: Serbia says - and for that matter, Serbians living in Kosovo say that they're concerned that 10,000 troops may be not be enough to protect Serbs in Kosovo from reprisal attacks that they say some Albanian groups have been plotting for years.
Lord ASHDOWN: Well, they may be right that they have been plotting them, but I don't think that it's right to say there aren't enough there. If that was the case, then it would be very easy for NATO, which has full-scale facilities in Kosovo, including a very good airport, to be able to bring in troops as soon as was required - in a matter of hours.
SIMON: Let me put you on the spot a little bit by asking if you think there are lessons that you learned, that the world learned in Bosnia, Herzegovina and Kosovo, that can be fruitfully can be applied to Afghanistan.
Lord ASHDOWN: Scott, you bet. I mean, the tragedy of Afghanistan, the real tragedy of Afghanistan, is that there were lessons to be learned, and we comprehensively, almost willfully refused to learn them, refused to apply them.
I mean, let me give you lesson number one: When I went to Bosnia as the international community's high representative in 2002, what I discovered was that the international community was fractured, it was divided, it was duplicated, it was treading on each other's toes, and it was most significant for criticizing each other in public.
And thanks to your government and mine and various others, they gave me the political backing to bash international heads together, and to get the international community speaking with a single voice. And the consequence was that we got a lot of things done in the four years that I was there.
In Afghanistan, do we have a single voice? No, we don't. We've been at this for six years. We have 15 major nations - a lot of minor nations - but major nations involved. Every one of them thinks Afghanistan is where they're fighting; the British think it's Helmand, the Canadians think it's Kandahar, the Dutch think it's Aruzga(ph), and the Germans think it's the northern valleys, and the Americans, up until recently at least, thought it was bombing from the air to see if they could hit Osama bin Laden.
There isn't an international plan. And my guess is that with the president's new surge, we have a real Rolls Royce team on the ground - General McChrystal, General Petraeus, British General David Richard. These are outstanding soldiers. We now have the resources on the ground to be able to turn this battle.
But unless we have a clear international plan and speaking with a single voice, no amount of soldiers are going to solve this problem. And the real - I'll be very tough, Scott - the real scandal of Afghanistan is not the absence of troops up until now; it's actually the absence of a clear plan. And it's not an exaggeration to say we are wasting young men's lives from our NATO forces, and Afghan young men's lives as well, because our international politicians won't get their act together.
SIMON: Well, Paddy, you're always direct, and a pleasure to talk to.
Lord ASHDOWN: It's a pleasure to be with you.
SIMON: Thanks very much. Lord Paddy Ashdown, who was high representative of the international community in Bosnia and Herzegovina, joining us on the phone from his home in Somerset.
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