NATO Defense Chiefs Focus on Progress, Challenges Ahead in Afghanistan
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
BRUSSELS, Belgium, Nov. 16, 2006 The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and other NATO defense chiefs reaffirmed their commitment yesterday to the alliance’s security mission in Afghanistan as they evaluated successes made, new approaches under way and challenges ahead.
Marine Gen. Peter Pace met at NATO headquarters here with members of NATO’s Military Committee for talks that will lead up to the NATO Summit in Riga, Latvia, later this month.
The discussions, led by Canadian Air Force Gen. Raymond Henault, Military Committee chairman, focused heavily on NATO’s historic role in the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.
“We talked at great length about Afghanistan and had a very, very good discussion about the mission that NATO is on right now and the need to have three places to have progress — one being security, but two and three being governance and economics,” Pace told American Forces Press Service following yesterday’s session.
NATO members understand that all three efforts are equally important to Afghanistan’s long-term success, he said.
“We obviously and correctly focus on security,” the chairman said. “But we also need to be encouraging our own government and other governments to look at what we are doing to help (Afghan) President (Hamid) Karzai in developing his ministerial capacity to govern, and also what we are doing collectively, internationally, to help provide jobs and alternative livelihoods other than the drug trade.”
To achieve these goals, NATO members recognize that the military is part of the solution, but not the whole answer, Pace said, and that they need to channel military efforts to work in synch with other, non-military efforts. “We can’t do it without good governance and good economics, and they can’t do it without good security,” he said.
Pace said he looks forward to an upcoming change within ISAF’s command staff that will increase continuity by rotating staff members in at various intervals rather than all at once. In the past, a new ISAF commander arrived with a nucleus of staff officers from his own country, filled out by augmentees. They group arrived together, served together and left together when the next commander came in.
Under the new arrangement, already starting to take shape, ISAF will have a composite headquarters that’s “built from the ground up specifically for the mission in Afghanistan, and it will be done in a way that the whole staff won’t change out all at one time,” Pace explained.
When U.S. Army Gen. Dan McNeill, who currently commands the Army Forces Command, arrives in Afghanistan in February to take the helm at ISAF, his new combined staff will already be in place.
About one-third of the staff will move in by the end of this month, the next one-third will arrive in December, and the final one-third, in January, Pace said. Of those new staff members, some will move to ISAF staff positions from other assignments in Afghanistan.
“This will bring continuity and predictability,” Pace said. “It’s a very positive step for ISAF.”
Yesterday’s meetings also included discussions about successes NATO has achieved in Kosovo and the lessons learned there that can be applied in Afghanistan.
“Kosovo in many ways is a good model for some of what we are looking to do in Afghanistan,” Pace said.
He cited the challenges commanders in Afghanistan face due to “caveats” imposed by individual NATO countries on their forces — basically, rules about what missions their troops can and can’t do. “If you get too many countries with too many different do’s and don’ts, it makes it very hard for the commander to get his job done,” he said.
Commanders in Kosovo experienced similar challenges, but through cooperation, “we were able to work the number of caveats down to almost zero, over time,” Pace said.
“It’s a matter of respecting countries’ sovereignties,” he said. It requires “finding out what is it about a particular action or task they are not comfortable with, and then finding a way to design that task in a way that is acceptable to the countries involved.”