WASHINGTON, Sept. 14, 2010 — NATO’s roadmap for a new world and its mission in Afghanistan will be the main topics of discussion when the alliance’s leaders gather in Lisbon, Portugal, in November for their annual summit, a senior Pentagon official said yesterday.
Michele Flournoy, undersecretary of defense for policy, said two “main baskets” of issues will be on the table at the summit.
“The first will be revitalizing the alliance for the 21st century,” she said, “and the second will be succeeding as an alliance in Afghanistan.”
Leaders are working on a new strategic concept to capture NATO’s missions going forward, Flournoy said. The last update of the strategic concept was in 1999. The United States also would like to see some changes in the alliance’s infrastructure and organization, she added.
“We have a whole series of reform proposals looking at command structure, NATO agencies and institutions, NATO committees and NATO financial reform,” she explained.
Flournoy said she believes that with many in Europe calling for cutbacks in the face of the world’s economic situation, the impetus is there to reform the alliance. That, she added, sets the stage for organizational changes that suit the alliance’s operational evolution.
“There is a downward pressure to do things more efficiently,” she said. “Secondly, NATO has now had more than a decade of experience in the requirements to do expeditionary operations – to actually have your command structure actually be able to deploy and employ forces in real-world contingencies.”
The economic and operational imperatives mean NATO leaders have become serious about reforming command structure and streamlining how the alliance does business so the alliance is more efficient and effective in how it spends its resources.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has put forth an initiative to pare down the number of NATO committees from more than 400 to fewer than 200. Other changes also are in the offing, Flournoy said.
“We are taking a look at 14 NATO agencies and seeing if we can consolidate them to three,” she said. “There is also a very careful scrub now of the common funding budget for NATO. Again, countries are asking, ‘What am I getting for my money, and are we spending it well?’ That is leading to some serious reform for the first time in a long time.” The United States would like to revive the NATO-Russia Council, Flournoy said. The relationship has had its ups and downs, she acknowledged, but she added that progress is possible in light of current U.S.-Russian relations. NATO and Russia have many areas in which they can work together, Flournoy noted, such as the effort in Afghanistan, fighting terrorism, ballistic missile defense and counterpiracy.
“We would like to revive the NATO-Russia Council and make it a much more productive body,” she said. “We’re quite open to that.” Flournoy said she hopes a NATO-Russia Council meeting could take place during the NATO summit in Lisbon, but that has not been decided yet.
As they discuss the Afghanistan mission, NATO leaders will focus on assessing how the alliance is doing, identifying milestones for progress and keeping the cohesion of the International Security Assistance Force, Flournoy said.
“We are approaching 150,000 international troops in Afghanistan – about 45,000 are non-American,” Flournoy said. “When we had our plus-up of 30,000 [troops], NATO also stepped up with an additional 9,000.”
And while the alliance members have stepped up in numbers, a number of the countries are stepping up in terms of their activities, Flournoy said. For example, the Germans in Regional Command North are now fully partnered with the Afghan units and “are operating with them, training with them, doing everything with them,” she said. “That is a real change, and we’ve seen other countries also step up.”
But problems and shortages still exist, Flournoy acknowledged, with a shortfall in institutional trainers and mentoring teams foremost among them.
“The long pole in the tent here is growing Afghan capacity in the security forces,” she said, “and while we are getting traction there – especially with the army – the trainers shortfall must be addressed if we’re going to be in a position to transition to greater Afghan lead for security.”
The need for police trainers has slowed the process, the undersecretary said. Changes in NATO’s training mission in Afghanistan have improved the process, she added, but the police still lag significantly behind the Afghan army.
Before, she explained, police simply were hired and placed on the streets. They received rudimentary training, if any at all, she said, and they failed spectacularly. “Now,” she said, “we are actually vetting them, we are training them before we put them out in the field, and we are trying to partner them with units and mentors so they get on-going professional development once they are actually in the field.
“We are hearing from our infantry and [military police] units in Kandahar that when we actually partner with the Afghan National Police, they do quite well,” she continued. “There is a lot of on-the-job training and development that goes on, [and] a lot of leadership development, when we are closely partnered 24/7.” The counterinsurgency strategy is permeating ISAF forces in Afghanistan, Flournoy said.
“Our troops really ‘get’ counterinsurgency,” she said. “They understand it’s not about how well they can do something — it’s about how well the Afghans can, and building the Afghan capacity and confidence to be in the lead. That’s what it’s about, so we are doing everything we can possibly do together.”
Though the Dutch have left Afghanistan and the Canadians are leaving, this is counterbalanced by a number of countries that have increased their commitments, Flournoy said. Still, she acknowledged, all of the NATO nations involved in the effort need to show their publics at home some demonstrable progress in Afghanistan by the Lisbon summit, and even more progress by next summer.
NATO leaders also will discuss Kosovo at the summit, Flournoy said. The alliance still has 9,000 troops in the country, she added, and overall, the mission is progressing well. “The United States is emphasizing training local security forces to eventually be in a position to take the lead on security,” she said. “The principle that we are operating under is ‘in together, out together.’ Any decisions toward the next gate and some reduction of forces will be made together as an alliance, rather than individual troop-contributing nations.”
Missile defense is another priority for NATO in Lisbon, Flournoy said, and the United States hopes the alliance will embrace missile defense as a mission. NATO would need to contribute a command and control system, with individual countries contributing various capabilities, she said.
The defenses would be focused on the threat from Iran and would in no way be aimed at Russia, the undersecretary emphasized. U.S. officials hope that Russia embraces the system, she added, as Russian radars would be particularly helpful.
“We would welcome Russian participation, but we have some work to do to convince them that it makes sense for them,” Flournoy said.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)