Rumsfeld to Seek Larger NATO Role in Iraq, Afghanistan
By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 7, 2005 Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld will ask NATO defense ministers at an informal meeting this week in Nice, France, to take on a larger role in Iraq and Afghanistan, a senior defense official said here today.
The official, speaking on background to reporters who will travel to the meeting with the secretary, said the recent successful elections in Afghanistan and Iraq could bring about more NATO involvement in both countries.
"This trip by the secretary, combined with the secretary of state's trip to Europe and the president's trip to Europe is all very consistent with the major emphasis that this administration has placed on NATO not just using NATO, but making it more usable," the official said.
NATO played a key security role leading up to Afghanistan's October presidential election, the official said, and is hoping to help in the same way with parliamentary elections scheduled there in the spring.
The alliance continues to make progress expanding the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, the official noted, with about 8,300 troops from 36 countries including all 26 NATO allies participating in ISAF.
Of the 19 provincial reconstruction teams in Afghanistan, NATO runs five. "We expect that there will be confirmation of some significant offers from several countries to lead provincial reconstruction teams in western Afghanistan," the official said. A number of nations also are expressing interest in leading PRTs in southern Afghanistan, the official added.
In Iraq, the official said, three ways exist for allies to contribute to NATO's effort: contributing troops to the NATO training mission, providing equipment or funds, or participating in training outside of Iraq. In the wake of the successful Jan. 30 election, the official said, a new phase of NATO involvement may be on the near horizon. "We think that there's going to be even greater interest in participating in this effort," the official said.
NATO currently is providing support to the Polish-led Multinational Division in Iraq, and is conducting stability operations in the country's center-south region, the official noted. The alliance also has 84 officers conducting training for the Iraqi Defense and Interior ministries and the country's joint headquarters staff within Baghdad's heavily fortified "Green Zone," the official said. NATO also plans to establish a training center elsewhere in Iraq, "but the immediate focus now is to increase the number of trainers in the Green Zone," the official said.
Members of the Iraqi security forces are attending courses at NATO schools in Europe, and the alliance has set up a "clearinghouse effort" in Brussels, Belgium, to coordinate training and equipment. The group has received equipment donations from Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Romania and Slovenia.
The Hungarian contribution is "particularly large," the official said, and includes 77 T-72 tanks and ammunition. Iceland and Luxembourg have made "significant contributions" to trust funds for this effort, the official said, adding that "these donations are making a difference and are very much appreciated."
In addition to operational issues, the official said, Rumsfeld will seek to continue progress in NATO's transformation as the alliance reinvents itself to meet 21st century challenges.
"We've got several initiatives under way at NATO to improve deployability of forces," the official said, "including development of metrics to assess the usability of allied forces (and) the development of comprehensive political guidance that would provide direction to NATO planning disciplines such as communications, logistics, armaments cooperation and force planning."
The official said Rumsfeld also is expected to continue pressing allies on the issue of "national caveats" restrictions countries place on their forces participating in NATO missions. The caveats, the official said, hinder NATO commanders in conducting those missions. Noting the successful effort to reorganize NATO's military command structure, the official said, "we continue to support the idea of transforming headquarters staff at NATO as well."
Rumsfeld is expected to advocate streamlining NATO's committees, staffs and agencies to become more efficient and save resources, the official said.
Some NATO committees are outdated, the official said. "NATO has four budget committees, and they use four different counting systems," the official said. "That's a very concrete example of something we think should be fixed. There are some NATO committees that don't support core functions. There's a science committee and an economics committee that, when we looked into it, was originally set up to study Warsaw Pact economies, which speaks for itself."
In Nice, Rumsfeld is scheduled to take part in a working dinner with his NATO counterparts, a North Atlantic Council meeting, a working lunch, various bilateral discussions with individual allies, and a NATO-Russia Council meeting with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov. The secretary also plans to meet with NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer.