NATO Responds Positively to Capabilities Initiatives
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WARSAW, Poland, Sep. 24, 2002 NATO ministers today demonstrated "overwhelming" support for the alliance to improve its military capabilities to meet 21st century threats, a senior DoD official said here.
This morning, the official said, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld met with NATO Secretary-General George Robertson. The secretary, the official added, opined to Robertson that NATO, like the United States, should pursue military transformation in order to better prepare for asymmetrical threats caused by a changed security environment.
The official said Rumsfeld emphasized that the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on America illustrated how peaceful nations are now exposed to the threats posed by terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. This situation, the defense secretary pointed out to Robertson, requires lean, agile forces able to deploy within days instead of months.
Rumsfeld and Robertson agree on the idea of establishing initiatives to improve NATO's military capabilities, the official said. In fact, the NATO secretary-general had opened today's informal defense ministerial meetings with remarks mirroring Rumsfeld's views.
NATO defense ministers voiced their support for boosted military capabilities after the morning meeting with Rumsfeld and Robertson, the official said. Major initiatives, he continued, would include making NATO forces more deployable and agile, streamlining the alliance's command and headquarters structure, and increasing specialized nuclear, biological, and chemical training.
Another proposal discussed by the two leaders, the official noted, is the establishment of a NATO rapid reaction force that could be deployed outside of the alliance's traditional European area of operations. Such a force, the official noted, would include air, land, and sea forces, and could perform traditional military missions or noncombatant evacuations.
Although it would take years to create such a force - envisioned to total around 21,000 troops from across the 19-member alliance -- the official said NATO members realize that starting development now will also support other military capabilities initiatives.
In other NATO news, the official noted that Germany and the Netherlands are studying costs and other criteria for possible troop deployments to Afghanistan to take charge of the International Security Assistance Force in Kabul. Turkey currently commands the force, but is scheduled for relief in December.
In a changed world since Sept. 11, it's imperative, Rumsfeld emphasized to NATO leaders, that the alliance gain increased military capability to respond quickly to address potential terrorist threats.
Failing to do so would most likely cause the alliance to become irrelevant in light of 21st century security challenges, Rumsfeld noted. The secretary is expected to brief NATO leaders here about the world threat posed by weapons of mass destruction held by Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
The senior defense official noted the United States appreciates NATO's support in the war against global terrorism. In fact, he noted, the United States "could not do what we're doing in Afghanistan today without NATO influence."