Lisbon Summit Will Chart NATO’s 21st Century Course

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)

More news and arti­cles can be found on Face­book and Twit­ter.

Fol­low on Face­book and/or on Twit­ter