Reports

NATO's role in the World: The case of Afghanistan

1 April 2004


Hikmet Çetin opened his presentation by briefly reflecting on the progress made in Afghanistan over the last years underlining that it had become the first priority for the Alliance. Success was already tangible: “Afghanistan is no longer the breeding ground for terrorism,” he said. NATO's stakes in Afghanistan are high, he said.

The preservation of stability and security and the spread of democracy will require a continuous political and military engagement and a readiness to remain committed. There was, however, a need to better synchronise the efforts of the various players. While NATO was not pursuing a leading role, it could provide assistance in fostering a coherent approach between international institutions active in the country, NGOs and the new Afghan government to be elected in September.

This type of close cooperation "will in the end help in setting the conditions for an effective exit strategy," he said. What was needed now was the development of a comprehensive strategy to deal with regional leaders and local commanders to ensure that they too were committed to maintaining still volatile stability and support the central government ahead of the elections. Strong governmental presence at the local level was necessary to achieve good relations with local commanders.

With respect to regional leaders, Mr. Çetin noted that a more forward looking approach was required. "We have to develop ways and means to integrate them into the political mainstream," he said. "Afghanistan cannot be viewed in isolation from the broader regional security setting," he cautioned, pointing to the fact that over 2.5 million Afghan refugees were still living in Pakistan and Iran.

Military operations along the border with Pakistan had direct political implications for both countries, which necessitated the development of cautious political parameters for NATO's dialogue with Afghanistan's neighbours.

Maximum effort should be placed behind securing a working and stable democracy in Afghanistan, and in this NATO would play a strong, long-term role that extended beyond the securization of polling stations and international election observers on voting day. NATO's work in the Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) was a further objective of NATO’s presence: by June 2004, it wanted to cover 6 PRTs in total to support demilitarisation efforts.

While the concept of a PRT was still evolving, given the regional diversities, NATO was committed to developing a coherent strategic approach, with a single basic structural framework, which still respected regional and local variants.