NATO "a corpse," fumes former Canada military boss

Tue Oct 20, 2009 3:14pm EDT
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The splits inside NATO over the Afghan war have turned the alliance into a rotting corpse that will be virtually impossible to revive, says the former head of Canada's armed forces.

General Rick Hillier also said the 28-member alliance was "dominated by jealousies and small, vicious political battles" and bemoaned its "lack of cohesion, clarity and professionalism" at the start of the Afghan mission.

Hillier made the angry comments in a new book called "A Soldier First: Bullets, Bureaucrats and the Politics of War," which was purchased by Reuters Tuesday ahead of its scheduled publication date next week. Hiller stepped down as chief of the defense staff last year.

Canada often complains that its 2,700 soldiers in southern Afghanistan are bearing the brunt of the war while other NATO members insist their troops be stationed in more peaceful parts of the country and limit what they can do.

"Afghanistan has revealed that NATO has reached the stage where it is a corpse decomposing and somebody's going to have to perform a Frankenstein-like life-giving act by breathing some lifesaving air through those rotten lips into those putrescent lungs or the alliance will be done," Hillier wrote.

"Any major setback in Afghanistan will see it off to the cleaners, and unless the alliance can snatch victory out of feeble efforts, it's not going to be long in existence in its present form."

So far, 131 Canadian soldiers have died in Afghanistan. The combat mission is due to end in 2011 and Ottawa says it has no plans to extend it.

Asked for a reaction, Brussels-based NATO spokesman James Appathurai replied: "I suppose if you're trying to drum up interest in your book, this is one way to get attention."   Continued...

<p>NATO soldiers keep watch at a blast site outside a NATO military base in Kabul September 8, 2009. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani</p>