European Union foreign and defense ministers meeting in Brussels today are expected to engage in a heated debate about the 25-member bloc’s future role in Afghanistan.
EU pressured to do more for Afghan development
Before the meeting, the NATO general secretary Jaap de Hoop Scheffer sharply criticized the European Union of doing too little to help the reconstruction process in Afghanistan.
"The solution is not a military one. The solution is called development," he said.
Suicide car bombings are a regular occurrence in Afghanistan
The transatlantic alliance is fighting an uphill battle to get Taliban insurgents under control in the extremely shaky south of the strife-torn country.
At the same time it’s becoming more and more obvious that reconstruction and institution building efforts have so far failed to stabilize Afghanistan.
Germany wants NATO and EU to work together
For the German government, the key issue is how to better coordinate efforts on the ground. The German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for closer cooperation between the European Union and NATO. She said the situation needed "a combination of military, humanitarian and reconstruction aid."
"I'm also saying this with a view to NATO's future role in Afghanistan. NATO is not just a military alliance, but a political one with is kept together by common values, so let's act accordingly and not just think about military options in a knee-jerk manner."
Joint EU security training?
At the Brussels meeting, the ministers are to study plans for assistance to reform Afghanistan's security sector, including training for Afghan police forces.
Several EU countries -- including Germany, Spain and Italy -- are already working on national police training and other schemes in Afghanistan that could be brought under a joint EU banner.
More German police are to help with training
In October, Germany signed a treaty to expand the number of its police officers in Afghanistan. But according to Karsten Voigt, the German government's coordinator for transatlantic relations, it is unlikely that the government will dispatch German combat troops to the unstable southern parts of Afghanistan.
Germany has recently come under pressure from the US government and NATO to lift the rigid restrictions put on their troops.