Sunday, 14 June 2009

NATO Transformation Demonstrated

NATO Ministers debated the transformation of the Alliance - which essentially means developing its ability to project military power beyond Europe, and as NATO reports:

Ministers reviewed and provided guidance on a wide-range of intra-Allied initiatives, including, inter alia, Allied Ground Surveillance (AGS), strategic airlift, helicopters project and usability of forces enhancement. Two subjects were discussed in depth. First, Ministers agreed on a new structure and arrangements for NATO Response Force (NRF). It will include a core element, a command and control part, as well as forces available on call. Moreover, the new force generation mechanisms will allow for more sustainable and “user-friendly” contributions from individual Allies. Second, they focused on various ideas presented by the Secretary General to make the NATO Headquarters in Brussels better fit to serve the Alliance in the years to come.

Little detail was available in the wake of the meeting, but the best evidence for the changes the Alliance has undergone in the past decade were shown through its ongoing missions. Ministers agreed a plan to draw down forces in Kosovo, a mission that would have been controversial as 'out of area' 15 years ago, but which is now seen as traditional peace-keeping. Troop numbers in the province will decline from 15,000 to 10,000 by early 2010, if Kosovo stays calm. beyond that, if things go well, troop numbers will eventually decline to 2,500. Many obstacles remain, not least the vitriolic hatred between the Albanian and Serbian Kosovans, and the semi-recognised state of independence that Kosovo declared in 2008.

At the same time, Ministers agreed to prolong Operation Allied Protector, their naval mission off the coast of Somalia, under which NATO warships escort World Food Programme ships into Somalia, and hunt for pirates on the sea. This mission has been seen by some, even within the Alliance, as a step too far in globalising NATO - but continued hijacking of shipping in the region means that western nations see the mission as a national security interest. There are also arguments about the effectiveness of the Operation, which has displaced much piracy from Somalia to neighbouring regions, such as off Oman.

At the same time, Defence Ministers supported a US plan to reorganize the military command in Afghanistan, to better handle an influx of new troops. NATO has nearly 60,000 troops in Afghanistan, and that number will increase still more during the coming months as some 21,000 additional American soldiers arrive. NATO officials also briefed that the Alliance will send up to 10,000 extra troops for enhanced security during Afghan presidential elections this August.

Ministers met with the new US commander in Afghanistan, General McChrystal, and approved plans to increase the training of Afghanistan security forces to allow them to work with the alliance in combating the rising Taliban insurgency.

These actions will have some significance for the future credibility of the Alliance - if NATO fails in Afghanistan it will find it difficult to build a role as a 'global security provider', as many in the Alliance wish. It will also have consequences for the development of the new Alliance Strategic Concept, which was ordered by the Summit of Heads and State and Government meeting in Strasbourg and Kehl earlier this year.

No comments: