George Bush’s defence secretary Robert Gates is making increasingly shrill pronouncements as the occupation of Afghanistan lurches into a deeper crisis.
Gates has been touring European capitals in an attempt to drum up more troops, equipment and money.
On Wednesday of last week US secretary of state Condeelezza Rice visited Gordon Brown to nudge him into sending more soldiers. Her visit was met by an emergency protest called by Stop the War.
Brown announced he would be sending all the elite parachute regiments – then qualified this by saying they would simply be replacing other troops.
A frustrated Gates flew to the German city of Munich to address European diplomats. He told them that if Nato – the Western military alliance that runs the occupation – lost the war in Afghanistan, their capitals would be targeted by Afghan insurgents.
“I am concerned that many people on this continent may not comprehend the magnitude of the direct threat to European security,” he warned.
Gates said that the threat from Al Qaida began during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s. To the bemusement of Russian delegates, he forgot to mention that the insurgency was funded and supported by the US at that time.
Now he wants Nato member states to rescue the occupation by pouring in thousands more troops, saying that failure to do so would result in the collapse of the Western military alliance.
“We must not – we cannot – become a two-tiered alliance of those who are willing to fight and those who are not,” he said. “Such a development would effectively destroy the alliance.”
Despite this bluster, Nato governments are reluctant to send more troops into an unpopular occupation that is widely accepted as facing defeat.
Following his unsuccessful campaign to boost the occupation, Gates flew to Iraq to announce he is halting the gradual withdrawal of troops.