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The NATO Training Cooperation Initiative

Fritz Rademacher explores possibilities for NATO to share its expertise with Mediterranean Dialogue and Istanbul Cooperation Initiative countries.

Training for the future: NATO's 2006 exercise Steadfast Jaguar in Cape Verde also included training exercises for Cape Verde's armed forces (© SHAPE )

At the November 2006 Riga Summit, Alliance Heads of State and Government launched the NATO Training Cooperation Initiative as a way of sharing Allied training expertise with Mediterranean Dialogue (MD) and Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI) Partners from the broader Middle East. To this end, NATO intends to build an expanding network of NATO training activities that will modernise defence structures and train security forces through an evolutionary and phased approach.

This Initiative is part of the Alliance's continuing transformation of its capabilities and relationships in response to an ever more complex security environment. Today, NATO is engaged in operations and missions across three continents ranging from crisis response operations to training missions and disaster and humanitarian relief operations. In addition, the Alliance maintains partnerships, dialogue and cooperation at varying levels of intensity with close to forty countries, making the family of Allies and Partners a group that comprises one third of United Nations member states. And NATO is pursuing ever-closer consultations and cooperation with other international and non-governmental organisations, both at the strategic level and in theatre.

Cooperation through education

The Alliance is playing an increasing role in educational and training initiatives that help non-Allied countries reform their defence structures and make their armed forces more interoperable with Allied militaries. NATO can build on the considerable experience and expertise gained in training and educating Partner militaries and security forces in the context of its various partnership and cooperation activities, making use of a well-established and unique array of NATO, Allied and Partner facilities.

At the same time, education and training have become part of NATO's operational activities. The Alliance, for example, is directly involved in the training of Iraqi Security Forces through the NATO Training Mission-Iraq. It is also providing support to the training of Afghan security forces through NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and, more broadly, through a substantial programme of long-term cooperation recently agreed between NATO and Afghanistan. Finally, the Alliance has contributed to building the capacity of the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) through, among other things, the provision of staff training.

In this context, Allies began consideration of a NATO Training Initiative for military forces of non-Allied countries and international organisations in the regions of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. With the Alliance's commitment to strengthening relations with the broader Middle East made at the Istanbul Summit in June 2004 as a basis, Allied Heads of State and Government endorsed at Riga the creation of an expanding network of training activities for the mutual benefit of MD/ICI Partners and Allies.

A key objective is to help interested countries make their military forces more capable and interoperable with those of Allies. Other possible objectives, if mutually desired, could include assisting those countries in the fight against terrorism and in the modernisation of their defence structures.

From an Alliance perspective, several principles underlie these objectives. Activities should be in the mutual interest of Allies and Partners, undertaken in the spirit of joint ownership, and demand-driven. They should also build on existing structures and programmes, add value to existing bilateral and multilateral programmes, and avoid duplication. These principles require transparency and coordination with other national and international players, including the United Nations and the European Union. Other principles include, inter alia, inclusiveness, non-discrimination, and self-differentiation.

A gradual approach

The precise manner of the Training Initiative's implementation is still being decided. In setting up this expanding network of NATO training activities, NATO would build on existing structures and programmes in an evolutionary and gradual manner consisting of distinct but related phases. An initial phase could possibly include:

  • Expanded MD/ICI partners' participation in relevant existing training and education programmes at NATO education facilities, such as the NATO Defense College in Rome; the NATO School in Oberammergau, Germany; and the NATO Communications and Information Systems School in Latina, Italy; as well as national PfP Training Centres and Centres of Excellence.
  • Expanded MD/ICI Partners' participation in other existing or developing partnership programmes, such as the Training and Education Enhancement Programme (TEEP), the Operational Capabilities Concept (OCC), or Education and Training for Defence Reform and the Partnership Real-Time Information, Management, and Exchange System (e-PRIME).
  • The establishment of a Middle East faculty at the NATO Defense College for short staff courses tailored to MD/ICI Partners and for modular courses at NATO, Allied, and PfP facilities open to officers and civilians from NATO and MD/ICI countries and, if offered, at appropriate facilities in the region.
  • As a second phase, NATO could consider supporting the establishment of a security cooperation centre in the region. This centre would be owned by the MD/ICI countries and could receive funding from within the region and NATO assistance. At Riga, Allies made clear that a decision on contributing to the establishment of such a NATO-supported centre in the region would require further preparatory work with the MD/ICI Partners. It would also depend on overall political and security considerations and the lessons learnt from the initial phase, in particular the conduct of possible modular courses at facilities in the region.

    Various levels of Alliance involvement in such a security cooperation centre are conceivable. If, for example, there were a preference for a low level of NATO involvement, an institution similar to a PfP Training Centre could be created in the region. An example of a 'medium' level of involvement would be an institution such as the Baltic Defence College. By contrast, the heaviest possible form of NATO involvement would probably entail the establishment of a NATO Middle Eastern Security Cooperation Centre patterned on the NATO Defense College. These models themselves could be seen as alternatives, or as steps in an evolutionary process.

    The phased approach outlined here has the advantage of a network-based method that provides flexibility, keeps options open with regard to the ultimate level of ambition, allows for lessons to be learnt by Allies and MD/ICI Partners alike, and facilitates the "jointness" of the endeavour.

    Regarding the latter, some MD/ICI partners have shown interest in the joint development and instruction of possible courses and modules. This reflects their desire for a Training Cooperation Initiative that is a two-way street, with Allied personnel benefiting from Partners' expertise and experience in relevant fields in a way that underscores the joint ownership of the Initiative.

    So far, discussions have focused on training activities targeted at mid- to senior-level military and defence officials in a wide range of areas including, inter alia:

  • defence reform, defence budgeting, and defence planning;
  • military education, training and doctrine;
  • the operational aspects of peace support operations;
  • interoperability;
  • the response to terrorism;
  • the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction;
  • civil emergency planning;
  • "civil-military relations" as defined by MD/ICI Istanbul Summit documents;
  • language training;
  • logistics;
  • the military aspects of border security; and
  • crisis management.
  • While potential partners in this Initiative are generally supportive of these topics, there is particular interest in interoperability, maritime cooperation, crisis management, illegal trafficking, and border security. Further discussions are necessary to better define specific partner interests and to ensure that topics match NATO objectives and expertise.

    The implementation of such an Initiative will require substantial financial and human resources at a time of high demand for NATO training and education facilities. Allies believe that employing a network-based approach could help balance potential partners' training and education requirements with budgetary factors. Creative solutions are required which could include voluntary national contributions to fill faculty slots or to staff mobile training teams as well as voluntary funding (trust funds) to which Allies and Partners of the Initiative as well as third countries could contribute.

    Many countries and regional and international organisations have shown a growing interest in the unique capabilities the Alliance can offer

    In addition, public diplomacy efforts taking into account regional and local sensitivities will need to be developed together with MD/ICI Partners. These efforts should also make clear that such an Initiative would serve the interests of all parties involved.

    Moreover, security and safety issues should be fully taken into account in evaluating the various elements of the Initiative. In general, these issues would vary according to the location of the training activity, with host nations providing security.

    The way ahead

    Further work is required on many of the aforementioned issues, both within the Alliance and in close consultation with MD/ICI Partners. While care should be taken that the implementation of the Initiative is carried forward at a pace that is comfortable for all actors involved, it is important to maintain momentum by taking the first steps toward 'phase one' activities soon. The evolutionary character of the approach will facilitate timely implementation.

    Joint ownership of the Initiative is crucially important as an incentive for Partners to get involved. It is also important in winning over public opinion and in overcoming lingering misperceptions and mistrust. Last but not least, it potentially enlarges the room for manoeuvre in terms of resources.

    This Initiative and the other partnership efforts as well as the Alliance's operational role in this field show clearly that training and education, as part of defence and security sector reform and capacity building, are becoming an increasingly important part of NATO's activities. Many countries and regional and international organisations both inside and outside the Euro-Atlantic arena have shown a growing interest in the unique capabilities the Alliance can offer.

    Looking ahead, it is not too bold to predict that the Alliance will be faced with further requests for cooperation and support in this field, both in the context of intensifying the efforts in the framework of its various partnerships and as part of its operations and missions. NATO's preparation for such activities will require both further transformation within NATO and progress in the way NATO cooperates with the United Nations, the European Union, non-governmental organisations and local actors.

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