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'Europe and Beyond: A Broader Mission for NATO', US Ambassador to NATO R Nicholas Burns, December 19

'NATO Ambassador Burns on Expansion of NATO Role Beyond Europe', U.S. NATO Ambassador Nicholas Burns op-ed in The International Herald Tribune, December 19, 2003.

(This byliner by R. Nicholas Burns, U.S. Ambassador to NATO, first appeared in the International Herald Tribune December 19, 2003, and is in the public domain. No republication restrictions.)

Europe and Beyond: A Broader Mission for NATO
By R. Nicholas Burns

Brussels -- This month at NATO's Defense and Foreign Ministers' meetings in Brussels, Secretary of State Colin Powell and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld challenged the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to assume a more prominent role in the peacekeeping forces in Afghanistan and Iraq. They proposed some of the most ambitious initiatives in Alliance history, reflecting U.S. interest in using NATO for the most vital security operations of the day.

With more troops committed to more missions at greater distances from Europe than ever before, NATO notched impressive accomplishments in 2003.

Most notable is the mission in Afghanistan, NATO's first ever operation beyond the treaty area. Assuming command of the International Security and Assistance Force in Kabul in August put the alliance on the front lines of the war on terrorism.

In addition, NATO ministers agreed to expand the force beyond Kabul to enlarge the sphere of security in the country and speed reconstruction. Rumsfeld and Powell proposed that NATO take over most, and eventually all, of the "provincial reconstruction teams" that provide security and assistance to far-flung provinces of Afghanistan. They also issued a more ambitious challenge: that NATO consider merging its Afghan security force operations with the U.S.-led Operation Enduring Freedom under a single NATO command. By the time NATO heads of state meet in Istanbul in June, the alliance will likely have expanded peacekeeping activities across Afghanistan.

The United States has also suggested a similarly decisive NATO effort in Iraq. Eighteen of the 26 NATO nations have soldiers on the ground as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Powell, supported by our coalition partners, urged NATO to examine how it might do more to support peace and stability in Iraq.

Closer to Europe NATO is justifiably proud of ending two Balkans wars, stopping ethnic cleansing, sending war criminals to The Hague and bringing peace to the region. We ought to accelerate efforts to apprehend the two worst war criminals in Europe since 1945 -- Radovan Karadic and Ratko Mladic -- who are charged with massacring thousands of Muslims during the Bosnian war. A remaining challenge is to nurture stable and democratic societies by integrating the Balkans into Euro-Atlantic institutions.

NATO's 17,000-strong peacekeeping forces will stay in Kosovo for the foreseeable future. NATO is giving Kosovo's multi-ethnic population the security and stability it needs while democratic institutions grow, displaced people return and a dialogue is opened with Belgrade.

Progress in Bosnia has been more dramatic. Eight years after stopping the bloody Bosnia war, NATO expects to complete its military mission by the end of 2004 and is considering the European Union's offer to lead a follow-on force. NATO ministers agreed the EU mission will employ NATO's planning, hardware and command and control assets to execute the mission.

As we look to 2004, the United States remains committed to a strong strategic partnership between NATO and the European Union, firmly anchored in the agreements collectively known as "Berlin Plus." A stronger European Security and Defense Policy is good for all of us in an increasingly dangerous world. We hope EU efforts will lead to more vigorous European military capabilities. We also expect these European efforts to be NATO-friendly and that our two institutions can work in genuine harmony.

NATO in 2003 added vital new military capabilities that will revolutionize our strategic reach. On Dec. 1, NATO inaugurated the new Czech-led chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear battalion designed to safeguard our civilian populations from a weapons of mass destruction attack.

On Oct. 15, the alliance launched the new NATO Response Force, which will give NATO for the first time in its history a quick-reaction force for hostage-rescue, peace interventions and combat operations far from Europe.

In its new missions, structure and advanced military might, NATO personifies the "effective multilateralism" President George W. Bush has championed to meet the challenges of our time. At the conclusion of a momentous and often difficult year in trans-Atlantic relations, that is good news for Europeans and North Americans alike.

(The writer is U.S. ambassador to NATO.)

Source: US State Department, Washington File, http://usinfo.state.gov.

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© 2003 The Acronym Institute.