After more than forty years keeping the peace on the Golan Heights, the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in Syria is close to collapse. UNDOF’s task – the maintenance of a ‘disengagement zone’ (a de-militarised area) agreed by Syria and Israel as part of the ceasefire ending the 1973 Yom Kippur war – has been severely complicated by the civil war that has gripped Syria for more than three years. Now, following a series of attacks at the end of August by the al-Qaeda affiliated al-Nusra Front, UNDOF has been forced to give up control of large parts of the disengagement zone and 45 Fijian UNDOF peacekeepers are being held hostage by the jihadi group. And further attacks on the UN force are likely.
In early 2013, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that after its 2014 drawdown from Afghanistan, the strategic posture of the Atlantic Alliance would shift ‘from deployed NATO to prepared NATO’. Following the annexation of Crimea earlier this year, Russia’s invasion of other parts of Ukraine has sharpened the meaning of Rasmussen’s words, setting a challenging new security context for the NATO leaders who meet at a summit in Wales on September 4-5th. However, while the Ukrainian crisis will surely dominate the summit proceedings (and developments in Libya, Iraq and Syria may also be discussed), two interrelated tensions – one operational, the other political – will also greatly affect NATO’s future.
Like many other international actors, the European Union needs to re-assess its activities in Afghanistan. The on-going drawdown of the international presence in Afghanistan during 2014 marks a major turning point for the future of that country. Since 2001, the EU has committed considerable resources to Afghanistan, and this FRIDE working paper analyses the legacy of those efforts. The paper also makes a number of recommendations for the future role of the EU in Afghanistan.
EU heads-of-government are expected to discuss their military cooperation at their summit next week, and their challenge will be to provide a fresh start for European defence rather than more of the same. European taxpayers deserve a better return on their almost €200 billion investment in European defence each year; and if they wish to have influence on global affairs, Europeans are condemned to cooperate on military matters.
European armed forces are in a malaise, not only due to economic problems but also because of two political ones: complacency, and a misconstrued approach to using military force. These failings call for a conceptual reappraisal of the utility of European military power, and a better understanding of both the active and passive uses of armed force.
It is a dangerous oversimplification to view the conflict in Mali through the narrow prism of counter-terrorism. The success of the French-led intervention depends on setting attainable outcomes.