How NATO is navigating Syria (and other issues for the evolving Alliance)
On the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, the NATO secretary general discusses Syria and how 'smart defense' will contribute to cash-strapped Alliance members’ security future.
(Page 2 of 2)
“Before we can do that, we need to know whether we will be invited – and what will be the legal framework” for a NATO presence, he says. “I have on several occasions told President [Hamid] Karzai that it is a prerequisite for our continued presence in Afghanistan that we are invited, and that we have a firm legal framework, a status-of-forces agreement” or SOFA.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Mr. Karzai’s first priority is to see if he can negotiate an agreement with the United States, which would require its own SOFA – including immunity from Afghan justice for US military personnel – before agreeing to a training and counterterrorism presence in post-2014 Afghanistan.
Time is running short – Afghanistan is to hold pivotal national elections in April – but Rasmussen predicts the hurdles to a continuing Alliance role will be overcome. Karzai “understands that we can’t deploy unless we have a very clear legal framework,” he says. “I’m confident we’ll reach an agreement.”
On NATO in the 21st century: A new strategic concept of three ‘core tasks’
First, “territorial defense.” Deploying Patriot missiles to Turkey is an example.
Second, “crisis management.” The Libya intervention showcased the “new NATO,” Rasmussen says, with “a very short, targeted operation to implement a UN resolution based on the ‘responsibility to protect,’ ” a nascent international humanitarian intervention doctrine.
Third, “cooperative security,” a “partnership concept” that expands the reach and heft of Alliance activity outside the NATO area by bringing in outside participants to NATO missions. “We realize that if we are to accomplish our security mission in the modern world we need strong partnerships,” Rasmussen says: “for political dialogue, but also for concrete operational contributions.”
In Afghanistan, for example, 22 non-NATO countries are present on the ground alongside the 28 NATO members, creating a partnership of 50 countries.
“It gives us strength, but it also gives us broad political legitimacy,” he says.
On NATO’s reform under his tenure: a tauter, smarter Alliance
For weary American taxpayers tempted to dismiss an international institution like NATO as a bloated cold-war relic, Rasmussen has a message: “We have cut fat and built up muscles.”
As part of a major streamlining effort, NATO has cut its administrative workforce by a third, and reduced the number of divisional headquarters from 11 to 7 – even as the Alliance has taken on new missions reflecting the challenges of today’s world.
Noting that “Today we can no longer provide adequate security by lining up tanks along our borders,” Rasmussen says NATO has had to expand its concept of what “providing security” means to include fighting terrorism in Afghanistan, tackling piracy off the coast of Somalia, and addressing the growing global threat of cyberattacks.
To do more with less, NATO under Rasmussen is shifting to what he likes to call “smart defense:” taking the cooperative spirit underpinning the Alliance and extending it to the acquisition and operation of new military capabilities.
By more “pooling of resources,” he says, increasingly prohibitive hardware, personnel, and training costs can be shared, and “we will be able to maintain our ability to work and operate together. That’s also part of NATO’s future.”