Saturday, 20 November 2010

What NATO leaders Will Discuss on Afghanistan

James Appathurai, NATO Spokesman, gave a press briefing yesterday. He talked about all the Summit issues, including decisions expected on Afghanistan, saying:

We will be joined here by all of the 48 countries, the 20 partners and NATO allies who are contributing forces to the mission in Afghanistan, as well as representatives of important international organizations, the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, the World Bank, the European Union, and of course President Karzai, because this is about his country.

We expect to see two main decisions taken here. One is to launch the process of transition whereby beginning in the first half of next year, early next year, district by district, province by province, Afghan Security Forces will take lead responsibility for security in their own country. In essence, President Karzai has laid out the vision, the aim, that by 2014 Afghan Security Forces should be in the lead for security operations throughout Afghanistan. That is an aim the whole international community has endorsed. That is the goal for which we are working. It must be a conditions-based process, but we are quite confident that the conditions can and will be in place with a goal of Afghans being in the lead for security by 2014 to be met.

The second decision we expect from the ISAF meeting is an agreement between NATO and Afghanistan on a long-term partnership that goes beyond the combat mission and that is broader than the combat mission. It is a political commitment to the long-term future of Afghanistan. It has very clear areas in which NATO will continue to support the development of the country in terms of training and other capacity-building. And it sends a clear message that NATO will stay as long as it takes to help Afghanistan find its feet and become resistant to terrorism. That is in Afghanistan's interests, it is in the interest of the region, and it is in our interest as an international community that terrorism can find no safe haven in Afghanistan and that Afghanistan is able to resist terrorism on its own.
The Guardian has a good piece on the Summit work on Afghanistan here.
Of course, the prospects for success are very mixed. Even a definition of what success is proves elusive. NATO continues to suffer attacks in Pakistan as well as Afghanistan (see this story, and this one too), and its ability to win any kind of military victory has to be questioned.

Indeed, some still debate the entire rationale and approach of the West to Afghanistan over the past decade. This was an interesting short piece on those lines.

The Need for Civilian Protection in Afghanistan

NATO forces have increased significantly in Afghanistan in the past year. The counter-insurgency mantra of enhancing security for civilians as part of winning hearts and minds is a central part of discussion as leaders turn to Afghnaistan this morning.

However, a new report from Oxfam and 28 other aid organisations active in Afghnaistan shows that the goal of civilian protection is not being met. The report, Nowhere to Turn: The Failure to Protect Civilians in Afghanistan provides a sobering verdict on ISAF operations and the prospects for 'success' in Afghanistan (whatever that would look like). It says:

As the conflict continues to intensify, Afghans are increasingly caught between PGF seeking to win their "hearts and minds" and an insurgency that, in many areas, is utilizing increasingly violent tactics. Experience in Afghanistan has shown that when one party to a conflict makes the population the prize, the opposition is likely to make them a target. Building schools in highly insecure areas often turns them into targets for the insurgency; healthcare clinics are bombed, mined and occupied by both sides, including PGF who may be paradoxically engaged in building clinics in neighboring districts; and in the south and east, anyone associ-ated with the government or IMF is a target for assassination. Strategies to "protect the population" all too often do anything but.
This really matters as the COIN strategy considered so successful in Iraq (although that is debatable) is not working in Afghanistan, and the effects of failure are appalling for the Afghan people As NATO leaders try to find a way forward in Afghnaistan that doesn't look like failure for the Alliance and does at least something for the country itself, they should consider the recommendations of Oxfam and its partners who know the country so well:

The insurgency continues to grow, violence is spreading and some ana-lysts even fear a new civil war. Yet this failure to protect civilians from the escalating conflict, now and in coming months, is not inevitable. More can and must be done to minimize the harm to civilians, especially as ISAF begins to handover responsibility for security to the Afghan gov-ernment.



• Issue a directive outlining procedures to provide redress to those civilians affected in the course of military operations. Work with the Afghan government to effectively and transparently investi-gate civilian casualties.

• Allegations of both past and present criminal acts and violations of international law must result in meaningful investigations, prosecution and disciplinary procedures.

• Avoid night raids if at all possible and utilize regular law en-forcement measures instead.

• Terminate implementation of ALP and other community defense initiatives. Instead, devote greater resources to the development of a professional and accountable ANP.

• Actively promote, support and monitor all the measures that the Afghan authorities need to take to ensure lawful conduct by ANSF, and ensure that respect for rights is an integral part of training and advice given to ANSF.

• Ensure that all soldiers are familiar with and trained in the Civil Military Guidelines for Afghanistan and adhere to them through-out their deployment.


• Increase the capacity to report and follow up on civilian casualty incidents, allegations of harm to civilians and human rights viola-tions.

• Allegations of both past and present criminal acts and violations of international law by ANSF must be taken seriously and result in meaningful investigations and disciplinary measures.

To the Afghan Government:

• Establish a civilian casualty tracking unit, which would regularly investigate allegations of harm and make its procedures public, as well as the findings of investigations.

• Reform Code 99 to address corruption and ensure greater trans-parency and consistency, including measures to improve access to the fund by those that have been harmed by AOG.

• In addition, a clear procedure should be established for ensuring ANSF adhere to or at least behave in a way that is consistent with the existing ISAF compensation guidelines.

• Terminate implementation of ALP and other community defense initiatives. If they must move forward, establish an independent monitoring mechanism for community defense initiatives. Con-duct an audit, the results of which should be made public, to as-certain the impact and status of past community defense initia-tives.

To the International Community:

• The UN, through OCHA, should immediately seek to establish re-lationships with ANSF and IMF at appropriate levels to ensure that there are mechanisms in place to investigate and address in-cidents of IHL violations.

• The UN, through OCHA, should fulfil its commitment to imple-ment a full, effective training and awareness-raising programme for all relevant actors on the Afghanistan Civil-Military Guide-lines, as well as a system for monitoring breaches of the guide-lines.

• The lead nations of Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) should establish and implement a plan to gradually phase out PRT-provided assistance and other militarized forms of aid. This transition strategy should prioritize an increase in funding and support for national and international civilian organizations.


• Minimize harm to civilians and damage to their property in the conduct of all operations and prioritize the protection of civilians. Take all feasible measures to distinguish between civilians and combatants, and avoid using disproportionate force.

• Seek to limit the adverse impact of military operations on aid ag-encies, their staff and operations.

• Ensuring that operations do not lead to forced displacement or the denial of the right of freedom of movement and other rights of displaced Afghans.

• Improve efforts to investigate, recognize and address allegations of harm to civilians caused by AOG operations.

Missile Defence Agreed (again)

NATO leaders approved the development of an Alliance missile defence programme as part of the Strategic Concept. There was controversy about linking the deployment of missile defences to further nuclear disarmament, largely from France. But there is agreement that a NATO BMD programme can fill the need for a major defence effort to cement the trans-Atlantic link once played by tactical nuclear weapons. As Secretary General Rasmussen said to journalists “Missile defense will bind the NATO allies closer together”.

The Strategic Concept paragraph n missile defence reads:
We will ensure that NATO has the full range of capabilities necessary to deter and defend against any threat to the safety and security of our populations. Therefore, we will:

• develop the capability to defend our populations and territories against ballistic missile attack as a core element of our collective defence, which contributes to the indivisible security of the Alliance. We will actively seek cooperation on missile defence with Russia and other Euro-Atlantic partners;

There are a number of useful stories on this here, here and here.

There are dissenting voices. US conservatives oppose spreading the BMD decision to include Russia, something that the Obama administration has made a central part of the reset of relations with NATO’s former enemy. They claim that Russian participation will render any system ineffective. (See this for example)However, since US conservatives are inveterately and irrationally hostile to Russia, and also backed enormous spending on missile defence systems that demonstrably do not work, probably cannot work and even if they did could be easily tricked by countermeasures, we probably shouldn’t take their views to seriously.

More serious for NATO was the Turkish objection, based on regional sensitivities, notably refusing to name Iran as a potential enemy which made the missile shield necessary.
Any such stance was dropped from official documents and the missile shield (effective or not) will go ahead.

Over dinner, Alliance leaders decided to invite Russia to participate. The cost of the proposed system is said to be some $270m over the next ten years, which ensures it will be extremely limited. The US spends far more each year to very little effect. Of course, NATO Summits have been agreeing to work on missile defences since the early 1990s, with few results. Let's see where this one takes us.

Nuclear Weapons Aspects of the Strategic Concept

Over the next few days NATO Monitor will take a look at different aspects of the Strategic Concept, starting with a first take on the nuclear aspects of the new paper.

The new Strategic Concept has both similarities and striking changes on nuclear policy with the Concept agreed at the 1999 Summit in Washington DC. It reflects, as do most NATO documents, the divergent positions of member states trying to come to a consensus. Thus, the the Preface to the Concept says that it:

.. commits NATO to the goal of creating the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons – but reconfirms that, as long as there are nuclear weapons in the world, NATO will remain a nuclear Alliance.
Some have expressed disappointment at this, seeing it as a statement of the status quo. (See for example the BASIC and the Arms Control Association joint press release) For another, more positive analysis of the new Concept see Hans Kristensen’s blog for the FAS here.

However, it is necessary to look at the policy as a whole, and to differentiate between tactical and strategic nuclear weapons, to see the possibility for change built into the new Concept. NATO leaders were never going to make a dramatic announcement on the withdrawal of nuclear weapons from Europe, especially given Eastern European and French opposition. What it has announced is the creation within the Alliance of the circumstances under which that withdrawal can happen.

On nuclear forces the concept now says:

16. The greatest responsibility of the Alliance is to protect and defend our territory and our populations against attack, as set out in Article 5 of the Washington Treaty. The Alliance does not consider any country to be its adversary. However, no one should doubt NATO’s resolve if the security of any of its members were to be threatened.

17. Deterrence, based on an appropriate mix of nuclear and conventional capabilities, remains a core element of our overall strategy. The circumstances in which any use of nuclear weapons might have to be contemplated are extremely remote. As long as nuclear weapons exist, NATO will remain a nuclear alliance.

18. The supreme guarantee of the security of the Allies is provided by the strategic nuclear forces of the Alliance, particularly those of the United States; the independent strategic nuclear forces of the United Kingdom and France, which have a deterrent role of their own, contribute to the overall deterrence and security of the Allies.
Thus far, the language is drawn fairly closely from the 1999 Concept. The US, UK will continue to provide strategic nuclear forces so long as they have them and NATO requires it. These strategic forces provide the ‘supreme guarantee’ of Alliance security, and the circumstances for their use are still said to be ‘extremely remote’.

However, on tactical nuclear forces (precisely the area of most controversy) the differences are striking. This is the culmination of a year in which first Germany, then others including The Netherlands, Belgium and Norway, have worked for change in NATO policy, particularly that regarding European based US nuclear bombs.

The old Concept was explicit on the need for tactical nuclear weapons in Europe:

63. A credible Alliance nuclear posture and the demonstration of Alliance solidarity and common commitment to war prevention continue to require widespread participation by European Allies involved in collective defence planning in nuclear roles, in peacetime basing of nuclear forces on their territory and in command, control and consultation arrangements. Nuclear forces based in Europe and committed to NATO provide an essential political and military link between the European and the North American members of the Alliance. The Alliance will therefore maintain adequate nuclear forces in Europe.
In the new Concept the statement on these weapons as an essential transatlantic link has gone. This is a major change in an area where the alliance had come under strong criticism. In addition, the language on Allied participation in nuclear policy has also been significantly weakened. The Alliance now wishes to:

.. ensure the broadest possible participation of Allies in collective defence planning on nuclear roles, in peacetime basing of nuclear forces, and in command, control and consultation arrangements;
It places less importance for the alliance as a whole on cross-NATO participation of nominally non-nuclear states in alliance nuclear operations. The new Concept clearly allows for NATO nations deciding to opt out of the nuclear sharing process, under which some nations host US nuclear forces and train their own air forces for nuclear missions in wartime. This possibility of change is reinforced by new language:

National decisions regarding arms control and disarmament may have an impact on the security of all Alliance members. We are committed to maintain, and develop as necessary, appropriate consultations among Allies on these issues.
This allows individual nations to take decisions to reduce or eliminate nuclear weapons, the nuclear sharing countries which wish to opt out can do so. Only consultations are necessary to facilitate this process, not the permission of the Alliance Thus Germany, which has expressed a strong desire to end nuclear sharing and have US nuclear weapons withdrawn from its territory now has a mechanism blessed by NATO under which this can occur, and most importantly it is a national decision.

NATO has also committed itself to further multilateral arms control:

With the changes in the security environment since the end of the Cold War, we have dramatically reduced the number of nuclear weapons stationed in Europe and our reliance on nuclear weapons in NATO strategy. We will seek to create the conditions for further reductions in the future.
This is placed in the context of ambitions to achieve a nuclear weapons free world:

We are resolved to seek a safer world for all and to create the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons in accordance with the goals of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, in a way that promotes international stability, and is based on the principle of undiminished security for all.
One can argue that the continued nuclear role of the Alliance runs counter to this desire, but the fact that France has signed up for it at all in a NATO context is striking.

The Concept says that NATO has no adversaries, thus no targets for its nuclear forces, but it explicitly links US forces in Europe and Russian tactical nuclear forces in a  a curious echo back to the Cold War The purpose it seems is to get Russia engaged in future arms reductions talks beyond the New START Treaty currently bottled up in the Senate. NATO will work with Russia to try to encourage a reduction of tactical nuclear forces by Moscow, but NATO appreciates it is in too weak a position to force reductions as a quid pro quo for its own 200 or so nuclear bombs in Europe, seeking transparency and deployment changes:

In any future reductions, our aim should be to seek Russian agreement to increase transparency on its nuclear weapons in Europe and relocate these weapons away from the territory of NATO members. Any further steps must take into account the disparity with the greater Russian stockpiles of short-range nuclear weapons.
NATO send s a strong signal to Russia that this arms control is part of a wider security building process in Europe:

NATO-Russia cooperation is of strategic importance as it contributes to creating a common space of peace, stability and security.
This sends Russia a very positive signal that NATO wishes to engage it as a partner, and sees that as so important that the desire for partnership is written not only in a communique but in the Alliance's main document on security. It will be interesting to see how far progress on issues like BMD cooperation goes at the NATO Russia Council today and in the future. Cooperation over Afghanistan is also vital to NATO.

Overall this could have been much less positive. There was no chance that this concept would state that the weapons would be withdrawn. A more decisive change might have been to remove rather than weaken the stated need for Allied cooperation in nuclear policy. However, France led very strong opposition to any kind of change, resisting to the last moment the slightest weakening of NATO policy. Some states in Eastern Europe have also been concerned at allowing anything that might dilute US security guarantees for NATO against Russia, at the same time as the US is trying to build a more friendly security relationship with its former foe. Easterners are none too happy at this. All this constricted options for change, but the new Concept is positive in that it allows for change on the tactical nuclear front in a way that France cannot block.

There will need to be a rewrite now in the Military Committee paper which is the basis for implementing changes in the Strategic Concept. This process is much more secretive even than the Strategic Concept negotiations which, since the experts group began meeting a year or so ago has been opaque and undemocratic. This revision will need to incorporate something that went unmentioned in the Strategic Concept. Both the US and the UK have rewritten their nuclear doctrines this year. They have said they will not use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear countries that are not in material breach of the NPT. Since NATO as an Alliance cannot override national doctrine, NATO doctrine has itself changed de facto. During the Bush years the Alliance was shifting, however slowly and in however ambiguous a fashion, towards US counterproliferation doctrine which allowed for the (possibly preemptive) use of nuclear forces against nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and other targets. (For a detailed treatment of this topic see a previous report) This more recent shift, even unheralded, has taken NATO in a much more positive direction towards the devaluing of nuclear forces in Alliance strategy.

The work will continue. It is thought, and the communiqué is likely to say more about this, that the Alliance will conduct a ‘deterrence review’ in 2011 and the possibility for change is very strong. The concept says:

.. continue to review NATO’s overall posture in deterring and defending against the full range of threats to the Alliance, taking into account changes to the evolving international security environment.
Sources within the Alliance have said that there was a drive to conduct a ‘nuclear posture review’ along American lines, but that this was blocked by the French. The 'deterrence review' will most likely happen in the coming year or so. Involving the full range of conventional and nuclear forces, France will participate.

In conclusion, this new Strategic Concept contains some change in reduced role for nuclear forces, but there is a lot of work to be done. Non-nuclear states in the NPT are unlikely to be satisfied and will continue to pressure the alliance for more change.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Summit Overview on Missile Defence

The major business of the NATO Summit will be the new Strategic Concept, which will replace the one agreed in 1999. NATO has undergone a process over the past year leading to this point, a process which has, unfortunately, been far less open and democratic than it could have been. A chance for a major political revitalization of the Alliance has been lost, as parliaments and civil society have not been given the chance to input into the process in any meaningful way – thus buy-in by the political class is very limited. The latest relaunch of the NATO presence in Afghanistan is also on the agenda. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen briefed the press earlier this week:

The Summit will put in place an Alliance that is more effective, more engaged and more efficient. More effective because NATO will invest in key capabilities like missile defence, cyber defence and strategic and tactical airlift. More engaged because NATO will reach out to connect with our partners around the globe, countries and other organizations. And more efficient because we are cutting fat, even as we invest in muscle. For example, by slimming down our command structure by about 5,000 personnel.

A decision to develop a NATO-based missile defence to protect our populations would be a major step. It would make our territorial defence even more effective and it would bind the allies even stronger together. And the decision to reform and rationalise our command structures, our agencies, and our headquarters will make the Alliance fit for purpose and ready to meet the security challenges of the 21st Century.

All of that will be enshrined in the new Strategic Concept. The new Strategic Concept will guide the Alliance for the next decade. It will serve as a lever for continuous reform towards a more effective, efficient and flexible Alliance so that our taxpayers get the most security for the money they invest in defence. Which makes the new Strategic Concept a key outcome of the Summit.

(The full Press Conference can be seen here.)

Significant problems remain before the Summit Communique can be issued. One of the trickiest is missile deefence. Turkey will only agree to allow the missile defence programme to go ahead if NATO says nothing about potential missile threats - while the US is intent on naming Iran as the source of potential missile threats to NATO. Turkey must also agree to host a radar for the system to be effective for the whole of NATO territory, something so important to the Alliance that it broke the proposed mid-course missile defence system the Bush administration wanted to deploy in Europe.
"We do not perceive any threat from any neighbor countries and we do not think our neighbors form a threat to Nato," says Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
Turkey fears that Iran, an important trade partner will be angered if it goes ahead with the NATO missile defence programme. They also want the US to put pressure on Germany and France to allow an advance on Turkish negotiations for EU membership in return for concessions in NATO - something very unlikely to succeed. You can read about their position in depth here.)

However, even if a deal can be done with the Turks, there are other problems to solve. Notably, the French are insistent that the missile defence programme is not in any way seen as replacing nuclear weapons as a deterrent to attack. France. The US sees BMD programmes as enhancing deterrence, France does not. It fears that pressure to reduce and eliminate its nuclear forces will grow if it accepts that missile defences can play such a role. Dealing with this objection will be a difficult part of the Summit's work. A discussion of the French-German talks on the topic can be found here.

More later.

NATO Summit Opens in Lisbon

After a few months out of business we'll be commenting on the Lisbon Summit this weekend. The NATO website has good coverage here.