Istanbul Summit Marks Milestones for NATO
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
ISTANBUL, Turkey, Jun. 28, 2004 The NATO Istanbul Summit that opened here today is expected to be significant in terms of the alliance's unprecedented outreach beyond its traditional North Atlantic focus and its aggressive emphasis on force planning to tackle new, demanding challenges worldwide, a senior defense official told reporters here today.
The agenda for the two-day summit emphasizes NATO's role in ongoing and potential new operations, including -- expansion of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, continuing support of Operation Active Endeavor to conduct surveillance in the Eastern Mediterranean, and peacekeeping support in the Balkans following termination of the Stabilization Force.
NATO leaders agreed today to support Iraq's request to equip and train Iraq's security forces likely with training offered both within and outside Iraq's borders, the official said.
This decision, plus the one to assume responsibility for five additional provincial reconstruction teams in Afghanistan, "clearly put to an end the debate 'out of area or out of business," the official said.
Decisions made at the summit are expected to "bring a certain amount of rigor into the force planning process that didn't exist before," the official said. For example, the defense ministers agreed to new readiness targets for NATO members: that 40 percent of their land forces be deployable and 8 percent deployed at any one time.
The summit is expected to stand out for decisions being made that expand the alliance to what the official called "a truly global outreach" in its missions as well as its membership. Seven new NATO nations are participating in this summit, and the alliance is celebrating the 10th anniversary of its Partnership for Peace program.
The defense official told reporters this summit the 17th in NATO history -- "is occurring in the midst of a period of unprecedented activity unprecedented operational activity and transformation in the alliance."
He pointed to sweeping decisions and initiatives within NATO during the past 18 months "that make clear that there has been more constructive change and development in the alliance than at any previous 10-year period."
Among those that stand out, he said, are establishment of the NATO Response Force and the standing up this week of the NATO chemical-biological-nuclear defense battalion led by the Czechs. In addition, NATO is considering new defense options capable of protecting alliance territory and population centers against a full range of missile threats.
Another milestone is the revamping of NATO's command structure, which the official called a key element in the alliance's transformation effort.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told reporters June 27 the last two years "have been amazing" for the alliance not only in terms of its accomplishments, but also in terms of relative lack of tension among members.
"I don't know when in the history of the alliance we have seen so many successes," the former U.S. ambassador to NATO said.