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Live from Abu Dhabi Connect the World takes you on a journey across continents, investigating the stories that are changing our world.

Live from Abu Dhabi Connect the World takes you on a journey across continents, investigating the stories that are changing our world.

The War in Afghanistan

July 20th, 2009
06:52 PM ET

“Failure is not an option. We cannot afford to fail in Afghanistan."

It's not the first time we've heard that line from the NATO's top man. But in an exclusive interview with me earlier today, the outgoing secretary-general Jaap De Hoop Schaeffer repeated his mantra, while at the same time admitting he is deeply frustrated with the commitment by some of his member states. He acknowledged that NATO doesn't have enough troops on the ground nor does it have enough hardware or air power to really take the fight to the enemy. He did though insist that the common security of NATO members hinges on success in Afghanistan (though he struggled to characterise "success" in this wretched theatre of war) and he's determined NATO is in this for the long-term. So what, then, did he make of the comments by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates at the weekend, that U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan must show progress by next summer to avoid the public perception that the conflict has become unwinnable? He certainly didn't buy my line that Gates' comments mark the first time Washington has offered a specific time frame for needed progress – nor did he support the notion doing the rounds in the capital that U.S. officials are gearing up for an exit within the year.

The next few weeks are De Hoop Schaeffer's last at the helm and I got the distinct impression that he leaves the post – not with a heavy heart – but with a sense of frustration that, had strategy been more cohesive and member states more willing to get involved at the start, things on the ground in Afghanistan might have been a whole lot different in 2009.

See the full interview on Afghanistan on Connect the World tonight at 9p London time. And, as ever, I want to hear from YOU. Is this the beginning of the end for US involvement and if so, what will the Western Alliance be leaving behind?

Comments below please, or e-mail me at connecttheworld@cnn.com

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