Last update: 03-Dec-2003 16:22 NATO Update

1-2 Dec. 2003

Defence Ministers review NATO's missions and transformation

21/11/2003 - NATO
Defence Ministers Meeting - 1-2 December 2003
Foreign Ministers Meetings - 4-5 December 2003
Speeches, audio and photos from the event

NATO Defence Ministers decided to expand the Alliance's mission in Afghanistan and reduce its presence in Bosnia at their meeting at NATO Headquarters on 1 and 2 December 2003.

During the two-day consultations, Defence Ministers from NATO and the seven countries expected to join next year reviewed the Alliance's operations, its ongoing military transformation, and gave directions for the preparations of next year's Summit meeting in Istanbul.

The picture is a good one. Prague produced a genuine NATO transformation. That transformed NATO is today delivering real security from Kosovo to Kabul , said NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson at the opening of the meeting.

Commitment to Afghanistan

Among other decisions, the Ministers agreed in principle to progressively expand the NATO-led peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan beyond Kabul, committing themselves to deliver the troops and capabilities required.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Alliance will reduce its presence to a deterrent force of 7,000 troops by June next year, in light of the improving security situation.

NATO will also examine options for a possible termination of the mission and handover to the EU by the end of 2004. In Kosovo, a small reduction in force levels to 17,500 troops will be carried out.

New capabilities

In addition to reviewing its current missions, Defence Ministers examined the Alliance's transformation to meet today's security threats, particularly the issue of boosting NATO's operational capabilities and the usability of member countries' armed forces.

Several countries signed on to the Norwegian-led initiative to develop key sealift capabilities. Furthermore, a new multinational chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defence battalion was formally declared to be operational and a demonstration of some its capabilities was given at NATO Headquarters.

Partnerships a priority

Ministers also met with their counterparts from Russia, the Ukraine and Euro-Atlantic partnership countries to review NATO's partnerships ahead of the Istanbul Summit. The decision to establish a direct line of communication between NATO Headquarters and the Russian Ministry of Defence was announced, and priorities for NATO-Ukraine cooperation on defence and security sector reform in 2004 discussed.

Strengthening NATO's partnerships is expected to be a key theme at next year's Istanbul Summit, and will also be discussed by Foreign Ministers during their meeting on 4 and 5 December.

Regular meetings of NATO Defence Ministers are held twice a year to review current developments, the Alliance's activities and take appropriate decisions.