NATO Makes Key Decisions on Iraq, Afghanistan
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
ISTANBUL, Turkey, June 28, 2004 "It's been a very good day" was Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's response today as NATO leaders here agreed to support the Iraqi government's request for help in training its security and police forces.
The agreement came just as the Coalition Provisional Authority transferred sovereignty to the Iraqis in Baghdad two days earlier than scheduled.
Rumsfeld issued his upbeat response as the 26 heads of state and government participating in the NATO Istanbul Summit here declared "full support" for the new sovereign interim government in Iraq.
"We are united in our support for the Iraqi people and offer full cooperation to the new sovereign interim government as it seeks to strengthen internal security and prepare the way to national elections in 2005," they said in their prepared statement.
The leaders called for an immediate end to terrorist attacks they said threaten not only Iraq, but also the entire region, and agreed to help train Iraq's security forces. Details of how the training will be offered have yet to be worked out, a senior NATO official told reporters here today.
The decision on Iraq was among several key initiatives agreed to during the opening hours of the two-day summit that underscore NATO's expanding global role.
Leaders in the alliance agreed to bolster the size of its peacekeeping force in Afghanistan from 6,500 to 10,000 troops to help ensure the security of the upcoming September national elections, the NATO official announced.
This move includes assuming responsibility for five provincial reconstruction teams over an area covering nine provinces in the north and western parts of Afghanistan.
NATO leaders also agreed to terminate the Stabilization Force in Bosnia by the year's end, transferring the mission to the European Union. "The decision to end NATO's nine-year mission in Bosnia marks its success in ending the war and keeping the peace in that country," they agreed.
But the NATO official told reporters the transfer doesn't mean an end to NATO's presence in Bosnia-Herzegovina. NATO will maintain a presence in the country to promote defense reforms and counter-terrorism efforts and to continue tracking down war criminals, he said.
Also in the Balkans, NATO will maintain a "continuing robust KFOR presence" in Kosovo, he said. KFOR is the Kosovo peacekeeping force.
The NATO leaders at the summit also agreed today to the so-called "Istanbul Declaration" that renews their commitment to collective defense and to work together to counter security challenges the alliance members face.
These threats, they acknowledged, "emanate from a far wider area than in the past," including terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
"NATO is engaged in fighting terrorism, strengthening security and building stability in many regions in the world," the leaders agreed, noting that unity within the alliance remains "essential" and the principle of indivisibility of allied security, "fundamental."
They vowed to stand up to these new threats through military operations and activities, by engaging with partners and by transforming NATO's military capabilities to meet the changing strategic environment.
During his opening comments today, NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said decisions made in Istanbul "will reinforce the vital transatlantic link that our alliance embodies" while enhancing NATO's partnership with countries across Europe and into Central Asia and build new bridges to the Mediterranean and Middle East.
The summit's agenda, he said, "demonstrates just how central NATO has become to ensuring our common security
"And it reflects the reality of transatlantic cooperation in NATO today: America and Europe united in a strong alliance committed to defend and to promote our common values and shared interests in the Euro-Atlantic area and beyond," he said.