Updated: 23-Oct-2003 NATO Speeches

At the NATO


16 Oct. 2003

NATO’s Future Agenda in Afghanistan and Other Regional Conflicts.

Contribution by Robert Serry, DASG for Crisis Management & Operations

In this panel asked to look forward; always a little risky and speculative. But other panellists already challenged me to react. And I will naturally reflect a little further on the three most important ingredients for Nato’s future missions, mentioned by SecGen in his keynote address. I recall them briefly: (1) transatlantic unity; (2) NATO should always act with a political vision or end state in mind; and (3) the need for sufficient military power

But first Afghanistan: Nato’ s first ‘out of area’ operation; high stakes first of all for Afghan people themselves, and for the IC (UN, OEF, EU): ‘failure not an option’ (SG quote)

Why did Nato get involved? ISAF and OEF already there, but ‘coalitions of the willing’ to respond to new international threats may be easier to create than to sustain over time. ISAF’s difficulties: to find new lead nations every six months; the high costs and inefficiency of rotating HQ Kabul every six months. A Nato’s lead role therefore became ‘the logical thing to do’ if you want continuity. (Surprising to note how little real debate in Council about this first decision to go far out of area!)

As NATO took decision to assume leadership over ISAF, already growing pressure to also consider expansion of the mission. Much work done during past months to increase our knowledge and understanding of challenges ahead (This included an unusual informal NAC seminar with IOs (UNAMA,EU, Worldbank, NGO’s) and invited experts (f.i. Prof Rubin, Ahmed Rashid). (recall how one expert (Rashid) bluntly warned NATO ambassadors: ‘ ISAF a lion? or a wimp?).

This preparatory work enabled NAC to recently agree both (1) a longer term political strategy for Afghanistan and (2) a progressive, flexible expansion of ISAF, to begin with the German pilot in Kunduz.

(1) Nato’s longer term political strategy: satisfying the need for a political vision or end state. NATO did not have to ‘invent’ this vision as the Bonn Agreement already provides an end state, or at least a Roadmap towards it, agreed by the mayor political parties in AF. A very important ingredient indeed, difficult to imagine successful CRO’ s without an envisioned end state (always difficult compromises!) or roadmaps to peace and reconciliation at the very least.
So NATO has defined its end state in line with the Bonn Agreement and we know that we are in AF ‘ for the long haul’. Co-operation and co-ordination with UNAMA, EU, and other key actors involved in nation building and reconstruction also key priority (lesson learned from Balkans and now also a challenge in AF).

(2) ISAF expansion: NATO knows that just staying in Kabul AOR not an option.
Nation building under very difficult circumstances needs a multinational force that can at least forge a secure environment in major AF cities/regional centres.
PRT’s (Provincial Reconstruction Teams) have become the focal point for SSR outside Kabul and the potential medium for the ATA to extend its influence beyond Kabul. Basic PRT function to help ATA in stabilizing key regional centres and thereby contributing to reconstruction. Logical to assume a growing ISAF role to assume responsibility in the medium term for some or all of the PRT’s. Recent Council decision also envisages the possibility of temporary deployments outside Kabul, in coordination with other key players, in support of specific events or processes (f.i. DDR, elections?).

Where are we now? The UNSC just approved this week a new resolution authorising ISAF to go in areas outside Kabul. And Council now awaiting further, more detailed military advice on (1) implementation of the pilot PRT in Kunduz and (2) how ISAF’s further progressive expansion may be implemented with sufficient and credible military power (Lord Robertson’ s third ingredient!) Key factors: ISAF’s security relationship with the PRT’s (Force protection, extraction); future ISAF -OEF co-ordination and deconfliction. Logical to speculate that they will merge at some point in future? Key question at this point: are NATO nations going to provide the right mix of forces and capabilities? Not realistic to send 700.000 troops to AF (Bosnia model), but whatever we do instead needs to fulfil the requirement of sufficient military power.

Increasingly important issue in this respect the usability of our Forces (main topic in Colorado Springs; SG Robertson:” we need real deployable soldiers, not paper armies.”

The Alliance faces two ‘ usability ‘ challenges at the same time:

On the one hand, it needs high readiness, rapid deployable forces able to conduct combat operations at short notice, to prevent a crisis from escalating into a wider conflict (good news since yesterday: activation at AFNORTH in Brunsum of NRF, initial capacity of 9000)

On the other, it needs forces at lower readiness that can be rotated to sustain CROs for extended periods of time

At one end, it is the NRF, at the other there is KFOR and now also ISAF. There is no magic, overnight solution to these challenges and we have to keep them in mind when addressing the question: what could be NATO’ s future role in other regional conflicts?

Let me now turn to other regional conflicts, where NATO may get involved.
For the record: besides ISAF, two other NATO operations outside the Balkans: (1) an article 5 maritime operation in the Mediterranean aimed at countering terrorist threat to commercial shipping and (2) NATO logistical support to the Polish led multinational division deployed in Iraq.

In patrolling/escorting merchant ships in sealanes along the Mediterranean, particularly across the Strait of Gibraltar, and by carrying out compliant boarding of suspected ships, Operation Active Endeavour is a very good example of how NATO can practically contribute the fight against terrorism (which will certainly remain one of NATO’s priorities in the future).

·At this point, let me first give my personal comments on what Thomas Friedman and Pierre Lellouche have suggested as regards to Nato’s role in other regional conflicts:

(…..) Friedman: NATO role in Palestinian-Arab conflict?
NATO gradually assuming responsibility over multinational force in Iraq?

To sum up:

  • Even if NATO can now act ‘out of area’, this does not mean that “ we use NATO to address each and every crisis” (quote SecGen). Some problems can be better addressed by the UN, EU, or perhaps coalitions of the willing.
  • But whenever Transatlantic unity of purpose really matters, like today so manifestly in the Middle East, than NATO is the proven tool to translate our collective resolve, if necessary, into effective CRO’s on the ground. (if unilateral action or coalitions of the willing considered less attractive, than NATO in many instances the only realistic option)
  • We still lack a serious strategic transatlantic debate on the challenges in the greater Middle East area., leading to a common political vision and strategy. This applies i.p. to the Arab-Israeli conflict, where the Roadmap urgently needs revitalisation and strengthening. In my view too late for another incremental approach in peace process. The time has come to begin considering how NATO could be involved on the security side to help both Israel and the Palestinians reach the envisaged two states solution as the permanent end state of their conflict.
  • I, for one, am confident that NATO will meet successfully its future challenges.
  • And that confidence rests on my experience in seeing the Alliance ultimately rise to the challenge in pacifying the Balkans.
  • If you would ask a citizen in Sarajevo, Belgrade, Pristina or Skopje to characterise NATO as a lion or a wimp, I am sure what their answer will be. It is not such a bad thing for the rest of the world that this “Lion of the Balkans” is now uncased to help pacify other major crises.

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