NATO Countries Working Together in More Ways Than Ever
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
BRUSSELS, Belgium, June 9, 2005 NATO counties are working together in ways they never have before, and the alliance is expanding its membership and global responsibilities, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said at NATO headquarters here today.
Rumsfeld is in Brussels to attend a formal meeting of NATO defense ministers. He noted that the alliance was formed in tough circumstances and has come through tough times in the years since.
"Nearly 60 years ago, after the devastation and turmoil of the Second World War, this alliance was first formed to defend against the threat of tyranny," Rumsfeld said in a news conference.
Since then, he added, the alliance has endured "heated disagreements" and predictions of the group's irrelevance or demise. "Those predictions have been consistently wrong," the secretary said.
Today, Rumsfeld pointed out, the alliance is working together "in ways that it never has before."
"NATO's recent successes are due to contributions and wisdom and determination of the member states, particularly those countries that have only recently gained membership, as well as the many Partnership for Peace countries that are increasingly providing valuable contributions to the alliance as well as new energy and perspective," Rumsfeld said.
The secretary noted that Lithuania, a country that joined NATO only last year, has assumed control of a provincial reconstruction team in Afghanistan.
NATO assistance in Afghanistan, Iraq, and soon Sudan, prove that the alliance is breaking out of its historic role, the secretary said.
In Afghanistan, NATO leads the International Security Assistance Force, which is expanding from the capital city of Kabul into the western and southern parts of the country. NATO also is assuming control of four provincial reconstruction teams in Afghanistan.
The alliance provided support to Afghanistan's presidential election in 2004 and will build on those successes in parliamentary and provincial elections scheduled there for Oct. 18, Rumsfeld said.
In Iraq, "NATO is making increasingly important contributions in helping to train and equip the Iraqi security forces," Rumsfeld said.
NATO is opening a training center on the outskirts of Baghdad this year. "Those forces are improving steadily in skill, confidence and success," the secretary said.
Despite recent successes, NATO is still looking for ways to better itself. Rumsfeld said the United States "fully supports" NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer's efforts to reform the alliance's headquarters. "We look forward to reviewing the reform proposals later this year," Rumsfeld said.
Still, other areas need continued attention. "The alliance faces challenges in the areas of logistical and transportation capabilities as it increasingly conducts capabilities outside of its traditional geographic boundaries," Rumsfeld said.
Progress continues in standing up the NATO Response Force, which Rumsfeld called "the key to maintaining NATO's relevance in a world where threats emerge in an unpredictable ways and unpredictable places."
The secretary said he believes the response force will also provide the impetus for member countries to improve their individual militaries, "to meet that NATO response force rotations that they'll participate in."
With these changes and advances, Rumsfeld said, "NATO holds great promise today, greater than in some time."