From Kosovo to Kabul and beyond
Change and continuity
In 1949, the Washington Treaty on which the Atlantic Alliance is based, was being written. The authors' aim was for the language to be as clear and concise as possible. Most writers claim this. Few deliver. This time, however, one of the authors had a benchmark. The Treaty should be written so that it could be understood by a milkman from Omaha.
That Nebraskan dairyman turned out to be an excellent editor. The Washington Treaty is a model of clarity and brevity. Better still, it has survived half a century of extraordinary change, and the efforts of experts to deconstruct or reinterpret it, in excellent shape. It proved its enduring relevance on 12 September 2001 when Article 5, the collective-defence clause designed to protect Europe from the Soviet Union, was invoked to help the United States respond to the new and evil scourge of mass terror.
But what about the Omaha milkman? How would the Alliance's first editor react to the new NATO, 54 years on? What would he understand? Or, indeed, fail completely to comprehend?
First of all, the milkman would probably be surprised to find that the Alliance was still in business. Based on his own experience, he would have expected the Americans to go home and the Europeans to fall out. Neither has happened.
More recently, historians told us that alliances between free nations do not survive the disappearance of the threat that brought them together. NATO disproved that argument. The Warsaw Pact disintegrated but NATO retooled. It retooled first to help spread security and stability Eastwards across Europe, then to use its unique multinational military capabilities to bring peace to Europe's bloody and chaotic Balkan backyard, and now to confront the new threats of our post-9/11 world.
New challenges, new NATO
The challenges have changed. So has NATO. The Omaha milkman would understand and approve. He would look at the mathematics. Twelve members in 1949, nineteen today and twenty-six next year gives a clear message of success. He might, however, wonder what had happened to the old adversary, the Soviet Union. Here, however, his perspective would be different from ours. Only four years after the end of the common struggle against fascism, and with the Iron Curtain only beginning to fall across Europe, he might not be that surprised to hear that we were once again partners with Russia.
But for those of us who are children of the Cold War, the journey from the shadow of mutual extinction to a NATO-Russia Council in which Russia sits as an equal with 19 NATO members to deal with the common threats of the 21st century, is nothing less than epic. Many of our young people are only hazily aware of the details. For them, the Cold War is almost as remote as the Great War, a different world, barely relevant and hard to understand. Yet when you explain to them what was done and why, they are enthralled. This is because this journey, from 40 years of ideological hostility and head-to-head global military confrontation, to a working partnership and real cooperation, is one of the main platforms on which their very different world is based.
We still have our differences with Russia. But they are the stuff of politics and diplomacy, not mutually assured destruction. We must therefore do more to explain all of this to a new generation so that the NATO-Russia Council and other mechanisms for cooperation get the credit and support they deserve.
The same applies to NATO's other partnerships, with Ukraine, and with new democracies and old neutrals in the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) and Partnership for Peace. Never before have 46 countries, as diverse as the 19 NATO members, Russia, Ireland and Switzerland, the Baltic Republics, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, made common cause in peacetime. That they do so on the basis of our common values, and that their partnership extends beyond political jaw-jaw to practical military cooperation, against terrorism and on the ground in NATO-led missions in the Balkans and Afghanistan, is another extraordinary but too little known achievement.
As the name says, this really is a partnership for peace. More than that, it is the world's largest permanent coalition, which works through and because of NATO. This is another clear and concise message that the milkman would understand and endorse.
Nonetheless, some critics argue that the real comparison is not with the NATO of 1949 but with the NATO of 1989, before the Berlin Wall fell, or the NATO of 1999, before al Qaida struck the twin towers. NATO may have done a decent job in those days but what added value does the Alliance have today? Is it anything more than a political talking shop?
My answer is fourfold. To begin with, no one should disparage talking shops. Jaw-jaw is always better than war-war. And ours is jaw-jaw of the highest quality. Frank and open debate within a close but diverse family. At their December 2003 meetings, Alliance defence and foreign ministers tackled the most difficult current issues head-on: Afghanistan; European defence; and Iraq. We made progress in every area because NATO is the tried and tested forum for debate, decision and then action.
More importantly, in the past two years, NATO has been truly transformed. The initial impulse came from 9/11 but the process rapidly became much deeper and much wider.
During 2001 and 2002, NATO sent AWACS aircraft across the Atlantic to help protect US cities, reversing the expectations on which the Washington Treaty had been based. We ditched a decade of sterile argument about whether NATO could operate out of area by agreeing that threats would be met from wherever they might come. We created the NATO-Russia Council. Then the Prague Summit began to pull the Allies towards even more radical change. An enlargement summit became a transformation summit.
Prague was so important a watershed because it encompassed transformation across the whole spectrum of Alliance business. This extended from new members and new partnerships with the European Union and Russia through new capabilities and new missions to the most radical reform ever of the Alliance's internal processes and structures.
The decision to admit seven new members, from the Baltic to the Black Sea, was highly symbolic. Yet it was also eminently practical. All of the new Allies will add value to our collective security. Sceptics need only look at the ceremony to stand up NATO's first multinational chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) defence battalion in early December. This new battalion, which is a key capability in today's military armoury, is being led not by a traditional NATO heavyweight but by the Czech Republic, one of the first wave of new members, now self-confident and capable enough to take the lead in one of our most important projects. Another Ally to have joined in 1999, Poland, is now leading a multinational stabilisation division in Iraq.
The CBRN battalion was just one of the many military capability improvements that we were able to generate at Prague. Some, like the cutting edge NATO Response Force and the new command structure, were the fruit of national thinking. Others, especially the Prague Capabilities Commitments, needed additional input from NATO's International Staff and my own interventions around, behind and under the North Atlantic Council table.
The overall result was a major package of military transformations, more far-reaching than past initiatives, and underpinned by the strongest possible commitments by presidents and prime ministers that their governments would deliver. At the heart of these decisions was the new Allied Command Transformation. This is NATO's motor for continued change and a vehicle for ensuring the future compatibility of European and US armed forces.
The Prague Summit did not close the transatlantic capabilities gap about which I have made myself such a pest in so many capitals. But the gap is narrowing. European governments really are transforming their forces. And Allied Command Transformation now provides the carrot of compatibility to add to the stick of marginalisation.
Compared to the delivery of new strategic airlift aircraft, air tankers, precision weapons and the like, overhauling the Alliance's internal processes may seem mundane. It is not. NATO Headquarters in Brussels is the Alliance's heart, brain and central nervous system. It is the forum for political and strategic planning and discussion, consensus-building, decision-making, public and private diplomacy. The Headquarters has worked with 19 members because hard-pressed civilian and military staffs are committed to the organisation and have been able to stretch a small Civil Budget to make do. Every person working in NATO Headquarters, military and civilian, shares the credit for what this great Alliance has achieved. However, with 26 members and major new responsibilities, but no new money, it was a case of change or collapse.
In the run-up to the Prague Summit, I therefore persuaded the nations to accept the most radical internal change agenda in NATO's history. We fundamentally restructured the International Staff to reflect the outputs of 2003, not the Cold War. We streamlined the Committee Structure and the decision-making process. We gave the post of Secretary General new delegated powers to manage the organisation effectively. We introduced objective-based budgeting and new, fairer and performance-related employment conditions for civilian staff. Now we are examining decision-making processes in capitals and in NATO from end to end. Most important of all, we demonstrated to the sceptics that NATO as an institution could change, could change itself, and could change quickly and for the better.
The Alliance became the focal point for developing military capabilities to deal with the threats posed by terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. Our new Czech-led CBRN battalion is just one result. Cooperation with Partners on terrorism and with Russia on theatre missile defence are others. All of the Prague improvements in focused military muscle, turning NATO from a sumo wrestler to a fencer, would of course be for nothing if they were to remain on training grounds rather than in crisis zones. So the most important of all the Prague transformations was NATO's adoption of new missions.
Impact of Iraq
In early 2003, when the international community and every other multilateral institution were split and paralysed over Iraq, NATO was able both to agree and to act. It did take us 11 difficult days to meet our Washington Treaty commitments and reinforce Turkey. But we did so when others failed. Indeed, some people will recall that it took NATO longer still to reach a similar decision in politically less difficult circumstances at the time of the first Gulf War.
Moreover, in building agreement, we confounded the critics who said that this crisis would shatter NATO's cohesion forever. Only weeks later, our supposedly crippled Alliance took two previously unthinkable decisions: first, to take over the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan's capital, Kabul; then to provide support to Poland in setting up a multinational stabilisation division in Iraq.
I have seen very few attempts to analyse how and why NATO went so quickly from the brink of going out of business to agreement to go out of area instead. In part, I think the reason was that nations peered into the abyss of a world without the transatlantic alliance, and recoiled. But I also sense that too many people underestimated the deep consensus that exists across Europe and the Atlantic on post-9/11 threats and how to deal with them. NATO's Prague Summit statement and the European Union's new security strategy do not reflect divergent worldviews.
Of course there were - and still are - differences inside Europe and across the Atlantic on Iraq. But the differences were about how to handle Saddam Hussein in 2003. They were not on the big picture of the global and continuing threats from apocalyptic mass terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and failed or rogue states. If the differences had been as fundamental as the pessimists believed, NATO would not today be in Kabul and preparing to move beyond of the Afghan capital. Nor would it be supporting Poland in Iraq, and discussing calmly a potentially larger role in 2004.
Prague has set in train a genuine and profound transformation, one that is already firmly embedded in the Alliance's culture and being implemented on the ground from Kosovo to Kabul. The Omaha milkman would, I am certain, understand and approve. But he might still have one or two questions to ask. How, for example, will an Alliance created to defend Cold War Europe far beyond the Hindu Kush?
The answer is that NATO will succeed because it has no alternative. All of its members understand and agree that if we do not go to Afghanistan, and succeed in Afghanistan, Afghanistan and its problems will come to us. Worse still, we would have to deal with the terrorists, the refugees and the drug traffickers with a much weaker international security structure because NATO would have been severely damaged and the concept of multinational security cooperation, whether in NATO, the European Union, the United Nations or coalitions, would have been dealt an equally heavy blow.
I am, however, optimistic, firstly because NATO has an unbroken record of success. Second, because nations have woken up to the need for more usable and more deployable forces for operations of this kind, and are beginning to do something about it. My efforts in the autumn of 2003 to provide helicopters and intelligence teams for ISAF were well reported in the newspapers. There were fewer reports of our success in December in meeting the requirement - exceeding it in some respects. The mood has changed. I hope that next year we will be able to change the process as well so that my successor, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, can spend less time than I have been obliged to on persuading nations to make the necessary forces available.
My third reason for optimism is NATO's record in the Balkans. Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia* are no longer in the headlines because NATO acted, and because NATO learned lessons and put them into practice. We helped stop civil war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. We acted to prevent ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. We intervened to prevent a civil war in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.* In each successive crisis, our involvement came at an earlier stage and was therefore increasingly effective in saving lives and preventing overspill. And we were prepared to stay the course.
During December's ministerial meetings, the foreign ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia and Montenegro sat side by side to my right at a working lunch of the EAPC countries. They are not NATO Partners yet, but only eight years after Srebrenica, they are well on the way towards Europe's mainstream. Most extraordinary of all, the strongest voice raised among the existing Partners in favour of their early membership was that of Croatia. If NATO can succeed so spectacularly in the Balkans, the great challenge of the 1990s, we can succeed in Afghanistan today.
A final question from the milkman might be: what is this row about European defence all about? Will the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) really damage NATO?
My answer is an emphatic no. I have been as robust as anyone in my opposition to unnecessary duplication between NATO and the European Union. We need more capabilities, not paper armies and wiring diagrams connected neither to soldiers nor to reality. But that does not mean I do not welcome a stronger European security and defence role, including the ability to conduct autonomous EU missions where NATO decides to stand aside and the arcane but essential "Berlin-Plus" arrangements prove inappropriate.
I therefore welcome the agreement reached recently among the EU members on strengthening ESDP because it involves no unnecessary duplication. I am also reassured by the commitments to a strong Atlantic alliance, and to complementarity between NATO and the European Union, being made on all sides of the debate not least because governments know that genuine institutional duplication and competition would cost much more to produce much less. No government likes that kind of deal.
My message is therefore that everyone should take the long view. Put proposals to the acid test of whether they deliver real capabilities, real added value, but do not turn a Euro-drama into an Atlantic crisis. NATO and the European Union both have more than enough to do without a new round of theological nit-picking. If, however, those who warn of slippery slopes are proved right, I will be the first to raise my voice in protest.
The intricacies of European defence apart, I suggest that the 1949 milkman from Omaha, and his European equivalents from Oslo to Oporto, Oban to Oberammergau, would come quite easily to understand and applaud the new NATO. Our world is not his. But his NATO is our NATO, transformed to deal with a new generation of threats yet based firmly on the same shared transatlantic history, culture, values and interests. It was not then, nor is it now, an alliance marked by homogeneity. Diversity is a strength, not a weakness. We do disagree. We will disagree. But in NATO - and now with Partners and with Russia - we work out our differences and move on, together. On 1 January, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer takes over the reins. Those who know him well already know his mettle. Those who do not will soon learn. The face at the top will change but it will be the same transformed NATO.
As Secretary General, I have seen the successes of our new NATO in the villages of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia* where the children now have peace and prospects, not death and exile, because of the commitment of half a million or more NATO soldiers who have served in the Balkans since the mid-1990s. I have seen the final divisions and stereotypes of the Cold War smashed around the new NATO-Russia Council table in Rome, and by NATO's largest ever enlargement at the Prague Summit.
I saw what the terrorists could do in the rubble of the Twin Towers and then how NATO could retool to help defeat them. I saw Alliance troops bringing hope to the streets of Kabul, a continent and a half away from the old Iron Curtain. Most of all, I have seen a transformed Alliance doing what it has done best since 1949: delivering safety and security where it matters and when it matters. This is a simple message that everyone should understand and welcome.
*Turkey recognises the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia with its constitutional name.
Reviving European defence cooperation
These technical arguments, however, were not the issue.
For the Belgian proposal, strongly backed by President Chirac and Chancellor
Schröder - against the advice of their foreign and defence ministries
- was of huge political importance. The four governments involved were
the same four that had blocked NATO aid for Turkey in January and February.
That the ring-leaders of the European Union's anti-war camp should try
to set up a core European defence organisation, with its own operational
planning staff, had an obvious message in American, British, Eastern European,
Italian and Spanish eyes. This appeared to be an initiative designed to
undermine NATO - and exclude the British from the principal area where
they are able to play a leading role in European integration. Moreover,
this initiative was not just about defence: the French and German governments
had for years toyed with the idea of establishing some sort of core Europe,
which would provide leadership to an enlarged European Union. They hinted
that such a core Europe should exclude those who were not committed to
putting Europe first, a category which included both the British and the
In Washington, senior figures viewed the Tervuren
proposal as an attempt to create an alternative to NATO, and thus to weaken
the Alliance. Moreover, it was followed by further developments they found
objectionable. The manner in which the European Union embarked on the
mission to Bunia, for example, irritated US decision-makers. This is because
EU ministers did not discuss the operation with NATO, to work out which
organisation was better suited to send the troops, but unilaterally decided
to dispatch peacekeepers. And the constitutional convention has been a
particular bone of contention. The draft EU treaty contains a mutual assistance
clause that seems to imply that the European Union could become a collective-defence
organisation to rival NATO. Moreover, it has provisions for "structured
cooperation", which would allow a sub-group of members to move ahead with
defence integration. In Washington, that looked like a way of formalising
the results of the 29 April summit. In short, during the course of this
year opinion in Washington has shifted against the European Security and
Defence Policy (ESDP). Europeans should worry about this; it will be hard
to make ESDP work if the Americans are actively opposed to it.
* Turkey recognises the Republic of Macedonia with its constitutional name.
NATO's Balkan Odyssey
Bosnia and HerzegovinaBosnia and Herzegovina can also expect to join the Partnership for Peace at the Istanbul Summit, if it maintains the reform momentum of recent months. Moreover, given sustained improvements in the overall security situation, it should be possible to reduce the number of troops deployed in the Stabilisation Force (SFOR) there to between 7,000 and 8,000 by next June compared with a current level of about 12,000 and an initial deployment of 60,000 troops in December 1995.
Bosnia and Herzegovina's security architecture at the end of hostilities in 1995 — which consisted of three rival armed forces — was not conducive to long-term stability, security and prosperity. In the intervening years, therefore, NATO and other international organisations have worked together with the various Bosnian authorities to reform the country's defence structures.
This year, the reform process bore fruit following sustained work by a special defence committee set up by High Representative Paddy Ashdown and chaired by Jim Locker, a former US deputy assistant secretary for defence. Bosnia and Herzegovina's three-person Collective Presidency formally endorsed the programme proposed in the so-called Locker Report, which includes creation of a single state-level Defence Ministry, in September. The Bosnian Parliament ratified it in December.
The High Representative has drawn up a series of benchmarks to measure implementation of the programme. These consist of legislative measures, including the passing of various constitutional amendments; personnel measures, such as the appointment of a state-level Defence Minister and two deputies; institutional measures, including the establishment of a Parliamentary Security Committee; and restructuring and budgetary measures, including establishing a budget system at both state and entity levels, preparing the 2004 budget and reducing the size of the armed forces.
If Bosnia and Herzegovina can demonstrate that it is implementing the reform programme by meeting the benchmarks and that it is cooperating to the best of its ability with the ICTY, PfP membership should be assured.
While no formal decision has yet been made, the improvements in Bosnia and Herzegovina's security environment which make troop reductions possible also potentially pave the way for the European Union to deploy a follow-on mission, in addition to the police-monitoring mission it is already running. This eventuality, which is currently being discussed and could be realised by the end of 2004, would not involve a complete NATO withdrawal. Rather the Alliance would continue to provide a security back-up for any EU-led operation and would, in all likelihood, set up both a NATO military headquarters and a civilian representation in Sarajevo to help oversee further military reforms. In effect, the nature of NATO's engagement with Bosnia and Herzegovina will be changing. In the months and years ahead, the operational aspect will become less important, while political engagement, particularly through the Partnership for Peace and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, will become more important.
Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*The model for EU-NATO cooperation is that established in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia,* where the European Union took over responsibility for the NATO-led mission in April 2003. The hand-over of command followed agreement of the so-called "Berlin-Plus" package of measures, setting out the terms under which the European Union is able to borrow NATO assets. And the ultimate commander of a future EU-led Bosnian operation would be the most senior EU officer at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) who is also the Deputy Supreme Allied Commander, Europe (DSACEUR).
The effective partnership between the European Union, NATO, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the United States in crisis management in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia* provided one of the most remarkable success stories of international involvement in the Balkans. NATO's role was crucial in brokering the cease-fire and securing an amnesty in 2001, disarming the National Liberation Army (NLA) in Operation Essential Harvest and contributing to the return of security in former crisis areas in Operation Task Force Amber Fox. And NATO's intensive political dialogue with the former NLA leadership contributed to the rapid transformation of the former guerrilla movement into a political party.
After landmark elections in September 2002, a new moderate government was formed led by Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski and the former rebel leader Ali Ahmeti. All this happened within a year of the end of hostilities. However, even here there is no room for complacency. The new government has already experienced difficulties in implementing the Ohrid Agreement, the framework accord establishing a stabilisation process, and the economy continues to stagnate. Though the government has made important strides towards addressing security concerns from the 2001 conflict — notably by increasing the numbers of ethnic Albanians in the police — minor security incidents continue to occur, especially in areas bordering Kosovo.
For this reason, the international community will have to remain engaged in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.* In this way, NATO is maintaining a military headquarters in Skopje to assist the process of security-sector reform and liaise with KFOR on border security issues. Meanwhile, the EU military mission to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia,* Operation Concordia, ended in December and is being replaced by a police-monitoring and advisory mission.
The security situation in Kosovo is stable but fragile. Moreover, the political situation remains tense and, following a decision by the Contact Group in October 2003, discussion of the province's final status is not likely to begin before the middle of 2005 at the earliest. As a result, it will not be possible to reduce the Kosovo Force (KFOR) to the same extent as SFOR in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Nevertheless, the numbers are scheduled to come down to some 17,500 by the end of 2003 from a current level of 19,500 and an initial deployment of 50,000 in June 1999.
Since Kosovo's status remains unresolved, the NATO mandate in the province is greater than in any other operation. In this way, the Alliance has, for example, responsibility for supporting border security efforts and has developed expertise and become increasingly involved in post-conflict management. Together with the European Union, the OSCE and the Stability Pact, NATO helped organise a conference on border security in Ohrid in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia* last May, in which all countries in the region participated. In this way, the Alliance is helping put in place a regional framework for cross-border security cooperation.
For the past two years, as NATO has reduced the number of troops deployed in its various Balkan operations, it has effectively viewed the entire region as a single joint operations area. In this way, Allied Forces Southern Europe in Naples has directed all the Alliance's Balkan operations and prepared a single reserve force which could be deployed in any theatre in the event of unrest. This force, which exercises regularly in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo, would be able to assist EU-led and NATO-led forces, if such support were needed. Other key assets, such as satellite and intelligence support, and heavy airlift are also shared between the two missions, which have been connected logistically by an air corridor, agreed with Belgrade in December 2002. NATO is also discussing with Belgrade the possibility of using landlines of communication through its territory.
The Alliance's decision to intervene in Kosovo and to use force to halt an ethnic-cleansing campaign was controversial at the time. But just under half a decade on and despite ongoing difficulties, it is clear that that decision was courageous, principled and far-sighted. Prospects for the entire region are better than they have been probably since the outbreak of fighting in the former Yugoslavia in June 1991. Ordinary people of all ethnicities can aspire to a better future. And the chances of further large-scale hostilities are remote. As a result, NATO is able to focus on security-sector reform and continue reducing its presence, which is the clearest sign that progress is being made.
However, the job is not yet finished and experience shows that post-conflict management may be a long and arduous process. While respective roles and responsibilities may change, the European Union, NATO and other international actors must continue their effective partnership for as long as it takes to make reconstruction and stabilisation in the region self-sustaining and irreversible. The experience that the Alliance has acquired in the Balkans is also extremely relevant as NATO moves beyond the Euro-Atlantic. As the Alliance takes on new challenges in Afghanistan, possibly in Iraq and elsewhere, it should take heart from its achievements in the Balkans and the way it has succeeded in building security and changing attitudes in a remarkably short time.
* Turkey recognises the Republic of Macedonia with its constitutional name.
Debating security strategies
In October 2003, during their informal gathering
in Colorado Springs, NATO's defence ministers considered how their military
forces might cope with a terrorist threat involving chemical and biological
weapons. While details of the discussions remain classified, it seems
that the defence ministers got a clearer picture of future operational
and decision-making requirements, including the urgency of pursuing the
development of the NATO Response Force and the rest of the transformation
agenda approved at last year's Prague Summit.
|Are the challenges NATO faces today
as great as they were in the Cold War?
Can you remember the time when the threat that
Europe faced was one of total war with the real possibility of such a
conflict escalating to a nuclear confrontation? In the early years of
the Cold War before détente, part of Europe was effectively hostage
to the policy of deterrence, and much of the rest lived under the Soviet
boot. Today, it seems all too easy to play down the danger of the unthinkable
actually happening. But there were times - such as during the Berlin airlift
and the Cuban missile crisis - when the threat of Armageddon appeared
very real indeed. At the time, NATO's role could not have been clearer,
namely in words attributed to its first Secretary General Lord Ismay "to
keep the Americans in, the Russians out and the Germans down". The transatlantic
Alliance was the heart of Europe's security architecture, critical to
managing crises, both vis-ŕ-vis the other side - presenting a
united front - and within our side, cementing relations among
Let's face it, terrorism has been around for a
very long time and certainly pre-dates the end of the Cold War. But while
terrorists have been responsible for many outrages, they have never posed
an existential threat to the world. In its most sinister form, the terrorist
threat must be viewed together with that posed by weapons of mass destruction
(WMD), even though terrorists have never actually deployed such weapons.
At least not yet. Clearly, the sinister combination of terrorism and WMD
does pose a formidable threat. But the difference between it and the Cold
War threat of mutually assured destruction is that the latter placed our
very existence in question.
The profile of new NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer will be posted on 5 January 2004, the day he takes up office.
|General Götz Gliemeroth: ISAF Commander|
The development of the Afghan
National Army as a capable force and, in parallel, the pursuit of the
Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) process are seen as
critical to the success of the overall Bonn political agenda. How are
these progressing and what role is ISAF playing in both?
|Understanding Afghanistan and its neighbours|
Before 11 September 2001, Afghanistan was for most Westerners a far-away country about which we knew little. The brutality of the Taliban regime and the safe haven that it provided to al Qaida primarily affected surrounding and nearby countries. That changed as a result of the terrorist attacks against New York and Washington DC of that fateful day. As the United States launched a military campaign to oust the Taliban and destroy al Qaida's terrorist training centres in Afghanistan, the country was propelled for several months to the very top of the international agenda.
The welcome demise of the Taliban brought with it a formidable challenge for the international community: Afghanistan's reconstruction. This requires, among other things, the building of a viable state structure, the extension of central authority throughout the country and the development of a constitution providing safeguards for human rights and religious tolerance. Since August 2003, NATO has been directly involved in this endeavour, leading the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), the UN-mandated peacekeeping mission responsible for providing security in and around Kabul, the Afghan capital.
Although mainstream media have increased coverage of Afghanistan and its Central Asian neighbours in the past two years, the history, traditions, culture and politics of the region are still little known in the West. Given the prospect of long-term NATO involvement, anyone with an interest in the Alliance and security matters will likely find that time invested in reading on that part of the world today will pay dividends in the years to come. Both Afghanistan: A Short History of Its People and Politics (HarperCollins Publishers, 2002) by Sir Martin Ewans and Ahmed Rashid's Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam in Central Asia (Yale University Press, 2002) would probably make welcome though sobering additions to many stockings this Christmas.
Afghanistan: A Short History of Its People and Politics is a must-read study providing useful insight into the shortcomings of earlier attempts at consolidating Afghanistan's unity and reforming its society and the scale of the challenge that the country and the international community faces today. Sir Martin, a British diplomat and former head of the British Chancery in Kabul, provides a detailed chronicle of Afghanistan's history from the emergence of the Afghan Kingdom in the 18th century to the fall of the Taliban. And he concludes that: "If there has been an overriding feature of Afghan history, it is that it has been a history of conflict - of invasions, battles and sieges, of vendettas, assassinations and massacres, of tribal feuding, dynastic strife and civil war."
Today, close to 6,000 NATO-led soldiers are deployed in ISAF. Moreover, NATO is currently seeking to increase its presence in Afghanistan and expand the mission to help build stability in more of the country. As a result, arguably for the first time in their history, Afghans have genuine cause to hope for a better future and, with international support, the opportunity to turn the tide of history. Nevertheless, the international community should not lose sight of why previous reform efforts in Afghanistan have failed.
One of the most fascinating chapters in Sir Martin's book covers Afghanistan's earlier drive for modernisation, which took place during the ten-year reign of Amanullah Khan. Crowned on 27 February 1919, Amanullah was the first Afghan leader to seek to transform the country. In the process, he oversaw the drafting of a constitution for the first time in Afghan history. Amanullah's constitution was based on that of Turkey, where Kemal Ataturk had successfully set up a secular state. In Afghanistan, Amanullah sought to create a similar secular framework within which the monarchy and the government could operate and to define the relationship between religion and the state.
Amanullah also attempted to reform the legal system. He did this by creating an independent judiciary, building a network of courts and developing a secular penal code. In addition, he oversaw legislation to improve the rights of women, invested heavily in education and attempted to overhaul and reorganise the tax system. While Amanullah was genuine in his attempts to modernise Afghan society, his reforms inevitably came up against deep vested interests and eventually led to tribal uprisings. In response, he was forced to abdicate in January 1929.
Amanullah may simply have been ahead of his time and his reform programme too ambitious for Afghanistan early in the 20th century. But his fate and that of his reform programme do not bode well for today's efforts to build a viable Afghan state and draw up a constitution in which all ethnic communities are fairly represented. Indeed, the challenge of balancing the need to modernise, on the one hand, and respect for tradition, on the other, remains formidable.
An assembly of tribal leaders, or Loya Jirga, is meeting in December 2003 to review and agree a constitution. By all accounts, the draft text is moderate yet progressive. It includes guarantees for all faiths to worship and allows political parties to be established as long as their charters "do not contradict the principles of Islam" and that they do not have any military aims or foreign affiliation. Pashtoo and Dari are to be the official languages. Hopefully, it will be possible to find the right balance this time because, if approved and implemented, a new constitution should be a major step in bringing stability to Afghanistan.
Chapters devoted to the rule of Mohammed Daoud Khan also make fascinating reading. Daoud, one of Afghanistan's most dynamic leaders, led the country in the 1950s and early 1960s, and then again between 1973 and 1978. An autocrat, who sought a close relationship with the Soviet Union, Daoud was able to bring tribal leaders in line and to assert central authority over the entire country. He resigned in March 1963 as a result of an unwinnable conflict with Pakistan and growing opposition to his ever-more autocratic rule. He regained power in July 1973, only to be overthrown and killed in 1978.
While Daoud's policies,
during both of his periods in power, were highly autocratic, his principal
achievement was to have built, for the first time in his country's history,
a sufficiently well-trained, well-equipped and mobile Afghan Army to be
able to maintain stability throughout the country. The international community
is effectively facing the same challenge today. Disarming, demobilising
and reintegrating former Mujaheedin into a disciplined and efficient
Afghan National Army is one of the prerequisites for successful implementation
of the December 2001 Bonn Agreement, the international accord setting
out a reconstruction process for Afghanistan, and a sine qua non
for a stable country.
Aspiring to NATO membership
* Turkey recognises the Republic of Macedonia with its constitutional name.