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更新时间:2006/12/21
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NATO's Presence in Afghanistan
北约在阿富汗的存在力量

 

The General leaned forward and peered out of the cockpit of his Hercules, his gaze resting on the endless, rolling ridges of dun-coloured hills. He looked at this apparently desolate landscape and I wondered what thoughts were going through his mind. For Gerhard Back, former fighter pilot and head of the German airforce, is the man with operational control of NATO's presence in Afghanistan. That presence, limited to a few thousand troops in a handful of locations, is now expanding. And with expansion comes responsibility -- and danger. It was a big step for NATO to come here at all. But the coming months will test the resolve of an organisation that has a hard time living up to its own expectations.

After visiting Kabul, where NATO first got its boots on the ground, and Herat, in the west, where Italian and Spanish troops are only just settling in, our journey took us to Kandahar, close to the front line in Washington's so-called war on terror. It's a huge, dusty base which sprawls across the southern plain, a short helicopter ride away from the caves that perforate the mountains along the Pakistani border.

It's from here that America supports its combat troops in their forward operating bases. And while the world doesn't seem to hear so much about this war any more, let me tell you: the skies above Kandahar are alive with men and machines, attempting to finish what they came here to do. Great lumbering C-17 transport planes fly in direct from Germany, carrying all manner of equipment. The air reverberates to the sound of helicopters. And everywhere, soldiers and civilian contractors tramp about in wrap around shades, getting on with their business. Which is, in short, to destroy what's left of the Taliban.

And they think they're winning. Since the end of a particularly harsh winter, the Americans have been going after their opponents with renewed vigour, hoping to finish them off once and for all. They're showing their teeth and we're showing ours, an attack pilot, Alexander Swyryn, told me. And the result? By the end of the summer, he said, almost diffidently, most of them would be either killed or captured. It's easy to talk, of course, but all over the base, I sensed that the Americans really believe they're reaching the end.

As we toured the facilities, General Back's eye was caught by the strange spectacle of a fleet of ghostly unmanned planes known as Predators. Flimsy, improbable machines that can monitor the ground by day and night, eavesdrop on phonecalls, fire missiles and stay aloft for almost twenty four hours. A useful bit of kit if you're looking for an enemy in the remote, rocky mountains of Afghanistan.

The general was clearly wondering whether he could have some, and fell into conversation with a burly, moustachioed contractor who seemed only too happy to oblige. He had the polished patter of the best used car salesman, but as the conversation strayed into matters of capability and contracts, he and the general drifted away. This was not for our ears. It was sensitive stuff. As the Americans reduce their presence in Afghanistan next year, handing over more and more of their combat responsibilities to NATO, they'll inevitably take a lot of a their favourite toys with them. NATO doesn't have the same kinds of capabilities. And since this is hardly a secret, it seems reasonable to assume that any Taliban fighters left after this new offensive may chose to lie low and bide their time -- wait for an altogether less intimidating opponent to take the field.

General Back told me he was confident -- in spending millions of dollars on the Kandahar base, he said the Americans had prepared a nice nest for NATO. But he didn't tell me whether he'd done a deal on the Predators. The burly contractor didn't let on either, but when he told me what they could do, I almost felt he was trying to flog me one. This man wasn't just a salesman, he was an evangelist.

After three days of criss-crossing the country, General Back headed home to his NATO headquarters in the Netherlands. Difficult months of discussion lie ahead -- will NATO members be willing to change their rules of engagement to allow them to fight the way the Americans have? Will the perennial problem of so-called "national caveats" prevent some countries from getting involved in dirtier, more dangerous work? The Germans, for one, will not send troops to the south -- Britain is among a handful of countries that will. And will the alliance be able to stump up the troops and equipment needed for such an enlarged undertaking? Lots of questions for General Back to ponder as the battle-scarred landscape of Afghanistan slid away.

 

参考译文:

将军身体前倾着,从他“大力神”运输机的座舱向外凝视着,视线落在绵延无尽的暗褐色山脊上。他在观看着这片显然毫无人烟的地形,而我则在好奇他的脑子里究竟在想着什么。吉哈尔德·巴克将军以前是名战斗机飞行员,曾任德国空军司令,目前负责北约在阿富汗存在力量的作战控制。这种存在力量以前只局限于由数千名人员组成的部队,他们分散在几个据点。现在这种存在力量正在扩大中,而随之而来的就是责任和危险,毕竟北约来到这已经是迈出了很大的一步。但是未来的几个月将会对该组织的决定进行考验,北约要想实现自己的期望值还需经历一段艰难的时间。
我们一行参观了北约首次落脚的喀布尔以及印度和西班牙军队刚刚驻扎进来的西部城市赫拉特,之后我们到了坎大哈,这距离华盛顿称之为反恐战争前线很近。它是一个巨大的多尘基地,蔓延在南部的平原之上,距离与巴基斯坦交界的山中洞穴很近,乘坐直升机一会儿就能到。

美国正是从这向其前沿作战基地的战斗部队提供支援的。世界似乎再也听不到关于这场战争的消息了,就让我告诉你们吧:人员和机器在坎大哈上方的天空来往繁忙,试图完成他们来到这所要完成的目的。笨重的大型C-17型运输机直接从德国飞来,运载着各式各样的设备。空气回响着直升机的声音。而在飞机四周的阴影下到处都是士兵和平民承包商,他们迈着沉重的脚步四处走动着,各司其职。简而言之,这里所进行的一切都是为了摧毁塔利班的残余力量。

他们认为自己将要取得胜利了。自上个特别冷冽的寒冬结束后,美国军队就重新打起精神追逐着他们的敌人,希望将他们彻底消灭掉。一位攻击机飞行员亚历山大·斯温赖恩告诉我说敌人做出了发怒姿态,我们也回之以颜色。而结果呢?他略微缺乏底气地说到今年夏天结束的时候大部分敌人将会遭到歼灭或捕获。当然说起来容易,但是我在整个基地都能感到美国人确实相信他们快要达到目的了。

正当我们巡视设施的时候,巴克将军的眼睛被一群像幽灵般飞逝而过的飞机所造成的奇异景象吸引住了,这些就是被称作“掠夺者”的无人驾驶机。这些奇异的轻薄飞机可以昼夜监控地面活动、窃听电话、发射导弹并可以待在高空大约二十四小时。如果你要在阿富汗边远多岩石的山区搜索敌人,它们会是非常有用的装备。

显然将军正在考虑他是否能够获得一些无人驾驶机,并开始同一位身材魁梧、蓄着胡须的承包商进行着对话,后者似乎非常乐意效劳。这位承包商说话非常快,有着畅销车推销员的圆滑口才,但是当对话转入飞机能力和合同等具体事宜时,他和将军渐渐走开了。这不是我们能听的,因为这些都是些敏感的对话内容。当明年美国减少阿富汗的力量存在并将越来越多的作战责任转移给北约时,美国人将不可避免地带走许多他们中意的玩意儿。而北约并不具备相同种类的作战能力。因为这几乎谈不上是什么秘密了,似乎有理由相信这次新的反攻之后所留下的任何塔利班战士都会深深地藏起来并等待着时机——等待着战场由总体而言不是那么可怕的对手来接管。

巴克将军告诉我说他很有信心,他说美军在坎大哈投下了数百万美元的金钱,为北约准备了一个非常好的基地。但是他并没有告诉我他是否就掠夺者飞机达成了协议。这位魁梧的承包商也没有透露真情,但是当他告诉我们这些飞机的用途时,我几乎能够感觉出他正在向我们进行炫耀。这个人不只是一名推销员,他还是一位福音传播者。

在这个国家往返奔波了三天后,巴克将军开始返回他在荷兰的总部。未来几个月的艰难讨论将等在前方——北约成员国会愿意改变其接触规则来以美国的方式进行战斗吗?所谓的“国家警告”这一长期存在的难题会阻止某些国家介入一个更为肮脏、更为危险的工作吗?比如德国人就不会将部队送到南方,而英国则是几个会如此做的国家之一。还有对于这样一个范围更大的任务所需要的部队和设备,盟国能掏腰包吗?随着阿富汗历经战役而满目疮痍的地形慢慢消失在我们的后面,将有很多问题需要巴克将军去思考。

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