Center for Strategic Decision Research


Ongoing NATO Operations:
Afghanistan, Kosovo, Iraq, the Mediterranean, and Darfur

Mr. John Koenig
Acting United States Permanent Representative
on the North Atlantic Council

It is a pleasure to be here to discuss a topic that is inextricably linked to NATO’s overall transformation. In fact, NATO’s current operations reflect its strategic shift away from the static defense employed during the Cold War to a more flexible, modern military force—one that is capable of confronting threats wherever they may arise and projecting stability wherever it is needed. 

The U.S. agenda for NATO therefore is to ensure that the Alliance has the necessary tools, capabilities, and political will to meet the 21st century’s most urgent security challenges—from combating terrorism and shoring up emerging democracies, as in Iraq and Afghanistan, to providing stability, as in Kosovo, and supporting international peacekeeping and relief efforts, as in Darfur. 


On 9 and 10 June, NATO’s 26 defense ministers gathered in Brussels to discuss NATO’s ongoing operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo, and the Mediterranean as well as its potential role in assisting the African Union (AU) mission in Darfur. I would like to give you a brief synopsis of where NATO is in each of these operations, and where the U.S. would like to see it go. 


In Afghanistan, NATO has just expanded into the West by taking over Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) in Herat and Farah, and by establishing a Forward Support Base in Herat. As a result of this expansion, NATO’s area of responsibility now encompasses the entire northern half of the country. As you know, two more PRTs led by the International Security Assistance force (ISAF) will be up and running by the end of this summer in Chaghcharan and Qal’eh-ye Now to complete Stage II of ISAF’s expansion. At that point, NATO will have a total of nine PRTs deployed. For the election, we hope to see NATO provide the same kind of enhanced security support that helped make last year’s presidential election such a success. Current plans are to deploy three additional battalions to Afghanistan for the election period to act as quick reaction forces—one each in Kabul, Mazar-e-Sharif and Herat. In addition, each PRT will be augmented by a force, up to a company-size, as determined by the respective lead nation. 

In the coming months, we also want to move forward on integrating ISAF and Combined Forces Command Afghanistan (CFC-A) under a single NATO command, with the details to be decided in late 2005 as part of the planning for Stage III expansion. OEF, with over 19,000 troops, twelve PRTs, and the training of the Afghan National Army under its command, is still the predominant mission in Afghanistan. The U.S. believes greater synergy between the two missions, and eventual integration, makes good operational sense. However, this move will raise important questions for the Alliance that will require intensive discussion, including how to marry the peacekeeping mission of ISAF with the combat role of OEF. In the coming months, NATO will also need to examine what additional support it can offer the Afghan authorities in the context of the new post-Bonn framework that will emerge after the parliamentary election. 


On Kosovo, the United States want to work closely with Allies on restructuring KFOR in a way that maintains its capabilities and ability to meet any possible security challenges that may arise, as the political process moves forward. Progress toward resolving the status issue, and prospects for stability and reconstruction of Kosovo and the region, are inextricably intertwined. Kosovo is entering a sensitive phase as it begins its standards review and, eventually, enters into talks over its final status. NATO’s KFOR will play a pivotal supporting role, helping to ensure the political process is not scuttled by civil unrest. 


In Iraq, as you know, all 26 allies are now contributing to NATO’s training mission, either by sending trainers to Iraq, conducting training outside of Iraq, or contributing to one of the NATO trust funds. Since January, more than 100 Iraqis have been trained at NATO centers outside of Iraq, and Train-the-Trainers courses have begun within the International (Green) Zone. NATO has conducted more than 500 training sessions since the beginning of the year at the Iraqi National Joint Operations Center, Ministry of Interior National Command Center, and Ministry of Defense Joint Headquarters. NATO must continue to press ahead to respond to the calls for assistance from the Iraqi government despite the difficult security environment that exists in Iraq today. We are committed to opening the doors of the Training, Education, and Doctrine Center at ar-Rustamiyah by early fall. Once it is fully up and running, NATO expects to provide staff training courses to over 1,000 Iraqi officers each year. Several Allies have contributed equipment to the Iraqi Security Forces, in an effort that has been highly praised by the Iraqi government. For example, thousands of required items arrived in time to support the Iraqi Security Forces for the January 30 elections. Hungary is also filling an Iraqi request for 77 T-72 tanks and related equipment to the Iraqi government through NATO. 

The Mediterranean Region 

I also want to mention what is an often overlooked, but nonetheless important NATO contribution to the war on terror, Operation ACTIVE ENDEAVOUR, (OAE). OAE is NATO’s only Article 5 operation. Through OAE, NATO has, in the course of nearly four years, ensured the security of the Alliance’s Mediterranean flank and minimized the use of these international shipping lanes by terrorists and their support networks. Additionally, the success of OAE has attracted partners such as Russia, Ukraine, Israel and Algeria to actively seek to participate. We believe OAE can and should explore expansion of its mandate to address the problem of the potential transport of illicit WMD and weapons technology in the Mediterranean. We are not looking for NATO to compete with the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI); rather, we believe OAE could complement PSI. 


Assisting the African Union mission in Darfur is another urgent priority for the U.S., Canada, and Europe. Through NATO, the U.S. has offered to airlift Rwandan troops who are participating in the AU mission. This is in addition to the $100 million in assistance the U.S. has already given to the AU mission and the more than $375 million the U.S. has provided in overall humanitarian assistance. The U.S. believes that NATO’s unique experience and know-how will help the AU expand its mission efficiently and expeditiously. We also support EU efforts to assist the AU and recognize the valuable role the EU has already played in Darfur. Above all, it is essential that NATO and the EU continue to work together in a constructive and transparent fashion to get the job done. This should not and cannot turn into a competition. 

The complementary NATO and EU efforts to assist the AU mission in Darfur also highlight the growing need for these two important institutions to communicate and coordinate better in our response to international crises. 

There has been much speculation in the media, in the wake of the recent two referendums on the EU constitution, on whether a weaker Europe would be good or bad for the United States. Let me state the unequivocal conviction of my government and of my President: The U.S. wants a strong partner in Europe, one that is capable of working with us on the broad range of urgent issues—some political, some security, some economic—that form the transatlantic agenda. 

That said, as important as the EU has become—and our renewed engagement with the EU over the past six months reflects our acknowledgement of this growing influence—NATO will remain for the U.S. the preeminent forum for transatlantic relations. Why? Because it is the only place where Europe and America work together every day as allies and it is our sole security link to Europe. The U.S. believes strongly in this Alliance and in its future. And we are committed to its success in all of its current operations. 

I look forward to hearing other viewpoints on NATO’s operations, where it is doing well and where it can do better. I also welcome your views on the broader issue of NATO’s role in today’s world, and how we can make this powerful catalyst for freedom even more relevant and more responsive to the security challenges of the 21st century. 



Top of page | Home | ©2003 Center for Strategic Decision Research