So what is an international alliance to do when a war it's committed to has become so unpopular in member states, it can't get their governments to pony up necessary equipment? The 21st Century answer: outsource it. The Financial Times Deutschland is reporting that NATO is planning on outsourcing air support for southern Afghanistan, an area of some of the most intense fighting. The alliance is intending to contract for some twenty helicopters.
According to the Financial Times Deutschland air support is being outsourced due to widespread domestic opposition in member countries to the deployment of more troops. The US has pioneered wide-scale military outsourcing as a force multiplier and for, well, let's just say it, plausible deniability in some situations. However, this is the first time military outsourcing has been used as a workaround to domestic opposition of a military action. This occurs at a time of broadening US public opposition to military outsourcing.
This summer Germany, France, Turkey, Spain and Greece all declined NATO requests for more helicopters to be sent to Afghanistan to fight the Taliban. Recent polls in Germany have indicated that two thirds of the population are against a renewal of the German commitment to Afghanistan. (Regardless, the Bundestag renewed the mandate last Friday, although Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung continues to refuse to send German troops to the more dangerous south.)
Similarly, a majority of the Dutch are against further engagement of their troops in Afghanistan. (The Netherlands, UK and Canada are active in southern Afghanistan where some of the heaviest fighting has been.)
Some member states have used Russian and Ukrainian contractors for airlift of equipment and supplies to Afghanistan, but military services that could involve combat have never before been outsourced by NATO.
According to the Financial Times Dtld. article, some unnamed NATO generals are questioning the use of contractors because of command and control issues and well as whether contractor could be ordered into deadly situations. However, another military representative to NATO summed it up, "Such is politics. From the perspective of the Ministers, it's the right thing."
Ironically, the most experienced contractor in providing helicopter services in combat situations, including Afghanistan, is Blackwater Aviation. With growing unpopularity at home, perhaps here's an opportunity for Blackwater to find support in Europe. And who knows, this might even open up a new line of items in the Blackwater Pro Shop: logo man-purses.