NATO countries are failing to "step up the plate" when it comes to Afghanistan, said US Defence Secretary Robert Gates. This failure, he said in testimony to the House Armed Services Committee, puts the entire structure of the alliance at risk of collapse :
I know, as do you, the members of this committee, that if the world’s greatest democracies cannot summon the will to accomplish a mission that all agree is morally just and essential for our collective security, then the citizens of these democracies will begin to question the mission’s worth – and perhaps even the worth of the Alliance itself. We must not allow this to happen.
The Afghanistan mission has exposed constraints associated with interoperability, organization, critical equipment shortfalls, and national caveats. I believe the problem arises in large part due to the way various allies view the very nature of the Alliance in the 21st century – about facing threats that are quite different from those of the Cold War. NATO must adjust to the challenges associated with conducting operations in distant locations. And NATO needs to ensure that it has the resources and the organizational structure to counter terrorist networks and triumph over insurgencies that threaten to cause instability and failed states....
I have been urging our allies to commit more troops and resources to the fight and to remove restrictions on the troops they already deploy. I know that several members of Congress have been doing the same thing. We in the administration will continue to work with NATO to fix these shortfalls. I would also like to stress the importance of American unity on this matter. If other governments are pressured by this body and the Senate, it may help push them to do the difficult work of persuading their own citizens that it is time to step up to this challenge.