Friday, January 29, 2010

Outcomes of London Conference on Afghanistan

A more stable and secure Afghanistan is vital to our national security and to that of the wider world. We can never allow Afghanistan to again be run by the brutal Taliban regime that gave safe haven to Al Qaeda – allowing them to launch attacks on the rest of the world as happened on September 11 2001.

To prevent this, the Government of Afghanistan (GoA) must be able to sustain its own security, exercise sovereignty over all its territory, offer its people representative government, bring about the conditions for economic prosperity, and play a constructive role in the region.

And the agreements between the international community and the GoA, made today at the conference, will be a springboard to bringing about the conditions for achieving these objectives.

In addition to the conference today, this week has seen meetings in London involving NGOs, UK and Afghan businesses, the British Afghan diaspora, parliamentarians and women’s rights activists. We’ve also seen the announcement by the IMF and World Bank of $1.6 billion in debt relief for Afghanistan through the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative.

The more than 70 countries and international organisations present agreed today with the GoA:

1) To develop a plan for phased transition to Afghan security lead province by province to begin, provided conditions are met, by late 2010/early 2011.

2)Targets for significant increases in the Afghan Army and Police Force supported by the international community: 171,000 Afghan Army and 134,000 Afghan Police by the end of 2011, taking total security force numbers to over 300,000.

3)Confirmation of a significant increase in international forces to support the training of Afghan forces. In total, the US have increased levels by 30,000 and the rest of the international community by 9,000, including the German contribution taking total force levels to around 135,000.

4) Measures to tackle corruption, including the establishment of an independent Office of High Oversight and an independent Monitoring and Evaluation Mission.

5) Better coordinated development assistance to be increasingly channelled through the GoA, supported by reforms to structures and budgets.

6) A civilian surge to match the military surge, including new civilian leadership of the international community’s programmes, with the appointment of Mark Sedwill, previously British Ambassador to Afghanistan, as NATO’s Senior Civilian Representative, a new UN representative plus more civilians on the ground to support governance and economic development.

7) Enhanced sub-national government to improve delivery of basic services to all Afghans.

8) Support for the GoA’s national Peace and Reintegration Programme, including financial support for a Peace and Reintegration Trust Fund, to offer economic alternatives to those who renounce violence, cut links to terrorism and agree to work within the democratic process.

9) Support for increased regional co-operation to combat terrorism, violent extremism and the drugs trade, to increase trade and cultural exchange and to create conducive conditions for the return of Afghan refugees.

Together, these measures will ensure we meet the Prime Minister’s call to 'match the increase in military forces with an increased political momentum, focus the international community on a clear set of priorities across the 43-nation coalition and marshal the maximum international effort to help the Afghan government deliver'.

Key now is delivery. Using the solid base we’ve established today, over the next 12 to 18 months, alongside relentless ISAF and Afghan pressure on the insurgents, the GoA will increasingly take the lead in bringing security, prosperity, rule of law, human rights, and good governance to the whole of Afghanistan.

We’ll meet again in Kabul in the spring to assess progress and hone implementation, another step towards a stable and secure Afghanistan, and a safer world.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Nato strategy to look at EU relations, says Albright

Relations between the EU and Nato are to be included in the new strategic concept for the military alliance currently being developed by a group of experts led by former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright.

"We need to maximise collaboration with the EU and make more use of political consultation," Ms Albright told MEPs in Brussels during a special hearing on Wednesday (27 January).
Ms Albright was the US' foreign policy supremo during 1997-2001 when Nato launched its first military action in the former Yugoslavia. The 72-year old has now been appointed to chair an expert panel tasked to advise Nato secretary general Anders Fogh Ramussen on an updated "strategic concept" for the military alliance.

The document will outline new security threats ranging from cyberattacks to terrorism and energy security and the way the military alliance, founded during the Cold War to protect Europe from a potential Soviet invasion, can respond.

"With 20 plus members, Nato can be slow and caught flat-footed by change," Ms Albright argued, highlighting "internal complacency" as a major threat.

She said the founding principle of the alliance – the military defence of its members in case of an armed attack – would remain at the centre of the organisation.

But the alliance had to take into account new threats and its own enlargement to 28 members since the last strategic concept, dating back to 1999.

In addition, Nato must take into account the EU's own expansion and its military and civilian missions abroad.

In this era of "scarce resources," when national coffers are near empty and military budgets have been slashed, avoiding duplication between Nato and the EU is of particular importance, Ms Albright argued.

For their part, MEPs called for a clear division of labour and more co-ordination between the two organisations.

Polish centre-right MEP Jacek Saryusz Wolski, in charge of EU-Nato relations, said he was struck how the two institutions were working in "totally separate worlds," despite having the same concerns and roughly the same armies and citizens, on the European side.

Of the EU's 27 members, only Austria, Sweden, Finland, Ireland, Malta and Cyprus are not part of the military alliance.

At the same time, Mr Saryusz-Wolski identified converging trends as Nato looks to developing a "soft," civilian side in Afghanistan, while the EU is going for increased military capabilities within its foreign and security policy.

"If the two are going more towards each other, the question arises how to make their roles complementary and avoid overlapping," he said.

UK Liberal MEP Andrew Duff asked Ms Albright if she was worried about the possibility of a "core group" of military-capable states establishing their own club within the EU – a provision enshrined in the bloc's new legal framework, the Lisbon Treaty.

Ms Albright kept her remarks general and pointed out that her team's work was still ongoing. A draft concept is to be issued by Nato's secretary general in time for the November summit in Lisbon, when Nato leaders are meant to adopt the final document.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

This international youth and human rights conference serves as a wake up call to policymakers and politicians in Europe. Held in Amsterdam and Rotterdam from the 21st to the 27th of March, this conference is an opportunity for young leaders to increase their leadership skills by providing them with a chance to facilitate peer to peer trainings and interactions that involve discussions and dialogue between participants, policy makers and experts.

To find more please visit:

The conference about Afghanistan will take place in London on 28 January 2010. Theinternational community are coming together to fully align military andcivilian resources behind an Afghan-led political strategy.

The conference will be co-hosted by Prime Minister Gordon Brown,President Karzai and United Nations Secretar...y-General Ban Ki-moon. Itwill be co-chaired by the UK Foreign Minister David Miliband, hisoutgoing Afghan counterpart Rangin Spanta, and UN SpecialRepresentative to Afghanistan, Kai Eide.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Security Jam

Brussels based SDA and co-sponsored by NATO and the European Commission are organising "The Security Jam", taking place in the virtual world between 4-9February for the biggest security brainstorm ever organized.

More information about the Jam can be found on . The registration for the Jam can be also done on this page.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

NATO Foreign Ministers Unlikely to Push Georgia, Ukraine Membership

Robert E. Hunter, Senior Adviser, RAND Corporation
Bernard Gwertzman, Consulting Editor

November 25, 2008

Robert HunterRobert E. Hunter, who was U.S. ambassador to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) during the Clinton administration, says he does not expect NATO foreign ministers to enlarge the alliance to include Georgia or Ukraine at the next meeting in December. Given the strong Russian objections to the enlargement, "I don't think anybody wants to run the risk of giving the Russians a pretext to do what they did against Georgia. Nor do people want to pretend that Ukraine is anywhere near ready to join NATO. Nor are NATO countries ready to give a security commitment to Ukraine." He expects efforts will be made to enlarge ties short of NATO membership, however.

The NATO defense ministers recently concluded a meeting on Ukraine. The regular NATO foreign ministers meeting will take place December 2-3 in Brussels. Since we've just had a new U.S. president elected, will anything get done at this foreign ministers meeting?

They have an agenda, which starts off with Afghanistan, where both the outgoing and incoming U.S. administration have put a very high priority on increasing the number of effective troops on the ground. The Europeans understand that President-elect Barack Obama, at least in terms of what he's said so far, will be putting pressure on them to increase the number of forces they have in Afghanistan, and to reduce the number of what we call "caveats," that is, limitations on where forces can actually be deployed. This will come, of course, at the same time that Obama will try to build a new and more positive relationship with the Europeans. But the meeting in Brussels will deal first and foremost with Afghanistan. The other issue will be the relationship to NATO of Ukraine and Georgia.

Let's first start with Ukraine and Georgia. When we last talked in the first week of September, the fighting in Georgia had just stopped. Since then Georgia's been a real irritant in Russian relations, not only with the United States but with Western Europe. What do you think is going to happen at the NATO meeting? Will there be steps taken to bring Georgia into NATO, which would drive Moscow to distraction?

The allies do have a requirement to demonstrate that Georgia is a legitimate part of Euro-Atlantic institutions, and also, at the same time, to send a message to Russia that whether or not there was provocation for what it did in Georgia and South Ossetia, its performance there was a gross overreaction. Its behavior was unacceptable and Russia needs to move from the nineteenth-century Russian way of doing business, to the twenty-first century way of doing business with the rest of the world. So the first thing NATO has to do is to continue its reassurance to Georgia that it is not alone. Ukraine, however, in many respects is more important. Georgia is an out-of-the-way part of the world, which no one in the alliance, we discovered last summer, is prepared to defend. Ukraine, by contrast, is in Central Europe. It is on the classic invasion routes to and from different countries there, and it is very important that the Russians understand that doing something similar to what they did in Georgia, or even a good deal less, would call into question the fundamental understandings that were worked out in the last fifteen or so years, since the end of the Cold War.

But the Russians have also made it clear that they really wouldn't sit tight for Ukraine to be invited into NATO, haven't they?

At the moment, no one really sees Ukraine or Georgia coming into NATO. At the NATO summit meeting in Bucharest last April, U.S. President George Bush was pushing for NATO to offer the so-called Membership Action Plan, or MAP, to both Ukraine and Georgia. MAP is one of those baby steps in the direction of NATO membership. Many of the allies, probably a majority, balked at that. Not just because of worry about the potential reaction from Russia, but also because of a widespread understanding, first, that Ukraine is having lots of internal problems. In Ukraine, NATO membership is not something that is particularly popular. And would countries really be willing to fight for Georgia or for Ukraine, under circumstances of foreign aggression? In Georgia's case, the answer is clearly no. In Ukraine, how do you convince the Russians that the answer is "yes" without actually doing things that might make a Russian intervention more likely? And that would include bringing Ukraine prematurely into NATO. So, there isn't much enthusiasm for its joining except for some of the theologians who don't believe that one should yield on anything the Russians object to.

So what's likely to happen, a sort of generalized statement?

"I don't think anybody wants to run the risks of giving the Russians a pretext to do what they did against Georgia. Nor do people want to pretend that Ukraine is anywhere near ready to join NATO. Nor are NATO countries ready to give a security commitment to Ukraine."

As you mentioned, there was the NATO defense ministers' meeting with Ukraine in the context of the NATO-Ukraine charter, something I negotiated back in 1997. This was an effort, without doing anything, to show that yes, we care about Ukrainian independence. U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates went to the meeting, even though he hadn't been expected. He underscored once again Ukraine's right to be part of Western institutions, and that every country should have a right to choose its own institutions. He said nothing about MAP, he said nothing about NATO membership, but his remarks were meant to bolster the relationship. I suspect what's going to happen at the Brussels meeting is not the offer of MAP for either Ukraine or Georgia, but something I call a functional MAP. Give them cooperation and all of that, just call it something else. I don't think anybody wants to run the risk of giving the Russians a pretext to do what they did against Georgia. Nor do people want to pretend that Ukraine is anywhere near ready to join NATO. Nor are NATO countries ready to give a security commitment to Ukraine.

About half of the population of Ukraine are Russian speakers who really don't particularly want to be in NATO.

On top of that, there are a lot of people in Ukraine who are still focused on their internal problems, who don't see an engagement of NATO as being particularly helpful to them. On the point you just mentioned, Nikita Khrushchev was a native Ukrainian. In about 1954, when he was Russian Communist Party leader and premier, he gave a birthday present to Ukraine by transferring the Crimean region from Russia to Ukraine. It didn't matter at the time, since Ukraine and Russia were both part of the Soviet Union. But in the Crimean region, those are Russians. Real Russians! Not Ukrainians. So, if I were a Ukrainian, far better to have a relationship with the European Union, and get the economic benefits, than to cause difficulties with Russia in regard to NATO. Particularly when [NATO] allies wouldn't honor defense commitments in the first place.

Beyond Georgia and Ukraine, could we talk about Georgia's overall relations with the United States and Europe?

Let me just mention that a part of what's going on with Ukraine and Georgia has to do with Russia's place in the world, with its desire to be taken seriously. And its desire to be seen as, if not an equal to the United States, as a player with the United States. President Dmitry Medvedev, talking on November 5 in his state of the union address, said that if the United States were to go forward with antimissile weapons and related complexes in Poland and the Czech Republic, he might have to consider putting nuclear weapons in Kaliningrad. Since that was the day after Obama was elected, that was taken as a negative shot across the bow. He then said, in effect, at the Council on Foreign Relations meeting on November 15, "Oh come on, that was just an accident of timing. My speech finally got ready. I'm looking forward to much better relations." But the fact is, they have chosen a couple of issues where they believe they have some leverage to try to say to the United States, "You have to take us more seriously." They would be insane to move against Ukraine in any serious way, because on that, there would be unanimity about a collapse of trust in Russia and its capacity to act in the outside world. In regard to the antimissiles, frankly, most of the allies would just as well wish that issue went away, and the Poles and the Czechs would wish it would go away as well.

When we talked in September, you said that Russia was really the big loser out of the Georgia venture, even though militarily it came out ahead.

I believe that. And compounded are the global economic crisis, the collapse in the price of oil, to less than 50 percent [of its peak around $147 a barrel]. And a loss of something like a quarter trillion dollars just by the oligarchs. At a time when Russia needs the outside world, they shot themselves in the foot.

Let's jump back to Afghanistan. NATO has how many troops there now?

There are about 57,000 altogether.

The U.S. has about 30,000?

We are more than 50 percent of the total number. They are both within the International Security Assistance Force [ISAF], and Operation Enduring Freedom [OAF]. which is a strictly U.S. operation which is run by the U.S. Central Command. Altogether, we're about 55 percent of all the troops in the country, with some 18,000 in the ISAF, and 15,000 in the OEF.

And the United States is now committed to increasing its troop levels in Afghanistan as it withdraws brigades from Iraq?

That is correct. President-elect Obama is, if anything, prepared to transfer a few more troops there than the Bush administration. But they're on the same page.

Recently, President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan talked about possibly inviting the head of the Taliban, Mullah Omar, to have peace talks with him. There's been rumblings about this for some time. Does NATO get into this topic at all?

Obviously NATO countries have what we call a "watching brief." And the United States as a leader, and the most committed nation, will want to be deeply engaged in this. What has been happening, I think, is twofold. One, a recognition has grown for a couple of years now that the military effort alone can be ineffective. The military, if you will, is the shield, but the nonmilitary are the sword. That is, better governance, reconstruction, and development. And here's where the West is really falling down. And frankly, in my judgment, the United States needs the Europeans to do a lot more. We really need their nonmilitary efforts more than we need their military.

The other development is a growing belief, whether it's valid or not, that in order to bring this thing to a reasonable situation, you need to start making a distinction between the Taliban and al-Qaeda. The Taliban sheltered the al-Qaeda people, who then attacked the United States on 9/11, but they are different people. The question is: Do you start considering bringing the Taliban back into a reasonable kind of governance in parts of Afghanistan while continuing to prosecute the fight against al-Qaeda? This is now a very current idea being pursued by the Karzai government. For example, Saudi Arabia and a number of the allies are beginning to pick up on it. It also potentially helps with what is now the nub of the situation, the use of Pakistan as a sanctuary for operations into Afghanistan.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Hello Everybody,

I would like to share the newest YATA Newsletter with you.

You can find the newsletter from here:

All the best
Antti Talonen

Saturday, January 16, 2010

U.S. Approves Training to Expand Afghan Army

The Pentagon has authorized a substantial increase in the number of Afghan security forces it plans to train by next year, in time for President Obama’s deadline for United States combat forces to begin withdrawing from the country, military officials said Thursday.

Meanwhile, a suicide bomber struck a marketplace in southern Afghanistanand killed 20 people, including children, and NATO officials reported that 23 soldiers had died so far this year.

The new training goals would increase the size of the Afghan Army from its present 102,400 personnel to 171,600 by October 2011, according to Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, the American officer who leads NATO’s training mission in Afghanistan.

Addressing a group of Afghan National Army cadets on Thursday, General Caldwell said the Pentagon had made the decision to increase its training commitments at a meeting the night before in Washington.

“The coalition forces want to grow the Afghan forces,” General Caldwell told the cadets, in response to a question from one about whether the coalition should not give more responsibility to Afghan forces.

“We want to do just what you’re saying,” he answered. “We are here as guests of Afghanistan. We want to support your army to take control.”

The Afghan National Army is already planning to increase in size to 134,000 by Oct. 31 of this year, General Caldwell said. Presently there are a record 18,000 fresh recruits in training, encouraged by pay increases of up to 30 percent. The recruits undergo an eight-month-long course run by NATO. The Pentagon decided Wednesday to further raise the army’s size to 171,600 by October 2011. Additionally, Afghan police forces, which now number 96,800, would increase to 109,000 this year, and American officials hope to further increase that to 134,000 by the following year, General Caldwell said.

Previously the goals had been to increase Afghan forces to 159,000 soldiers and 123,000 police officers by 2011.

The American military’s proposed budget for training Afghan forces is now at $11.6 billion for the fiscal year 2011, and the increase in personnel would be paid for out of that, according to Col. Gregory T. Breazile of the United States Marine Corps, a spokesman for the NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan. “We’ve been talking about these numbers for some time, but we didn’t have approval until last night,” Colonel Breazile said, referring to the Pentagon session.

President Obama has ordered an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan by this summer, which would bring the United States’ troop strength to about 100,000. With other coalition contributions, also expected to increase but at a slower rate, that would bring the total NATO troop strength to at least 145,000 by the end of 2010. By comparison, American troop strength in Iraq has already dropped below 140,000 and is scheduled to fall to 50,000 by August.

The United States military has projections of increasing the Afghan Army and police forces to 400,000 by 2013, Colonel Breazile said, but he added that the growth might not be necessary. “It’s all conditions-based,” he said. “If they need it, we can do it.”

On Thursday, the marketplace attack took place in the Dehrawood District of the southern Oruzgan Province, killing 20 civilians and wounding 13, according to the local Afghan National Army battalion commander, Gen. Abdul Hamid. An unspecified number of the victims were children, he said. The local governor, Asadullah Hamdam, said there apparently was no military or government objective for the bomber, unlike most previous suicide bombings.

“It shows that these terrorists do not know anything about the values of Islam,” said President Hamid Karzai, in a statement released by his spokesman.

The death toll in the country among coalition troops this January has now risen to at least 23, all but one due to hostile engagements, according to, an independent organization that tracks military casualties, and reports from NATO military officials. By comparison, 25 died in all of January 2009. Of those 21 hostile deaths this month, 14 were Americans, 2 British, 2 French and 1 Spanish, plus 2 others whose nationalities have not yet been disclosed.

The latest death was a United States soldier killed by an improvised explosives device on Thursday in southern Afghanistan, the American military said in a news release.

On Wednesday, four American soldiers and a NATO soldier were killed in four episodes, according to news releases from NATO’s International Security and Assistance Force headquarters in Kabul.

Two of the Americans were killed by a roadside bomb in eastern Afghanistan, the international force said, and one American died in another bombing in southern Afghanistan. In addition, an American soldier was killed in a firefight with insurgents in eastern Afghanistan. The NATO soldier, who was identified as French, died from a roadside bomb in eastern Afghanistan.

On Tuesday, two American soldiers died from a roadside bomb in eastern Afghanistan. And on Monday, seven NATO soldiers died, including three Americans killed in Helmand Province, in southern Afghanistan, and two French soldiers killed in eastern Afghanistan. A British soldier also died in Helmand. The nationality of the seventh fatality has not yet been disclosed.

A Taliban commander claimed that an insurgent killed five American soldiers in Shah Wali Kot, in the southern province of Kandahar, on Monday. But a spokesman for the international force in Afghanistan, Lt. Col. Edward Sholtis of the United States Air Force, said that no such attack had occurred.

Also on Thursday, a suicide bomber in Musa Qala, in Helmand, attacked a police patrol in a marketplace, but did not kill anyone else, according to Mullah Salam, the district governor there. One police officer and four civilians were wounded in the blast, he said. A statement from the international force, however, said one police officer was killed and five were wounded, four of them police officers.

In Khost Province, a roadside bomb detonated, killing a road construction worker and wounding another. A Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility, putting the death toll at three.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Analysts: NATO Membership for Ukraine Unlikely Anytime Soon

Ukrainians go to the polls January 17 to elect a new president. Current leader Viktor Yushchenko is a strong advocate for Ukraine's membership into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. But that membership is unlikely to happen anytime soon.

Ukraine and Georgia have expressed interest in becoming NATO members. The Bush administration strongly supported their membership bids. But at the April 2008 NATO summit in Bucharest, Romania, member countries declined requests by both nations to begin the process of accession known as a "Membership Action Plan". The final communiqué simply said NATO leaders agreed that "these countries will become members of NATO" - but no time frame was given.

A former senior State Department official in the Bush administration, David Kramer, who was responsible for Eurasian and European affairs says both countries have to overcome numerous obstacles before becoming NATO members.

"Joining NATO means meeting the criteria for joining NATO - countries can't simply fill out an application and become a member the next day. They do have to undertake reforms that include political, economic as well as security reforms. And membership is a long process - it does not happen quickly. And so in some respects, in different areas, Georgia and Ukraine have made progress in these regards. But in other areas, in other parts of reform, they have a long way to go. So membership for Ukraine and Georgia is not going to be in the offing anytime soon."

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko has been pushing for NATO membership since he assumed power five years ago. But he is on the verge of losing his job as voters go the polls this Sunday to elect a new president. Public-opinion surveys put Mr. Yushchenko far behind the two front-runners: Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and Viktor Yanukovich, head of the powerful "Party of Regions" in the Ukrainian parliament.

David Marples from the University of Alberta [Canada] looks at Ms. Tymoshenko's and Mr. Yanukovich's stand on NATO membership. "Tymoshenko is a little unclear on what would happen with NATO . Yanukovich is opposed to it, but he would probably agree to a referendum. And all the polls so far have suggested that most people would vote against it: something like 55 or 60 percent, which is a very high figure in a referendum, would vote against Ukraine joining NATO," he said.

Russia has been vehemently opposed to Ukraine's bid to join NATO. Analysts say as a result of President Yushchenko's attempts to join the alliance, relations between Kiyev and Moscow are at an all-time low.

But many experts, including Robert Legvold from Columbia University, say NATO membership appears to be less of an issue now than it was five years ago at the beginning of the Yushchenko administration. "One of the interesting things about this election is no candidate, no single candidate, not even Yushchenko, who is after all one of the 18 candidates, is raising the issue of NATO membership in this presidential campaign. Both objectively in terms of Ukraine's relations with NATO and in terms of the politics of it in Ukraine, as reflected in this presidential election, Ukraine is farther away from NATO membership than before," he said.

Legvold says that has a lot to do with NATO's perception of Ukraine. "And that is that Ukraine is seen less and less as a fit member of NATO, because it has not been able to deal with these underlying structural problems: it has made a little bit of progress in terms of military reform, but not in terms of corruption or political stabilization or advancing in a way that would make it anything other than for NATO, a basket case to take on. And NATO has had enough trouble dealing with, just as the European Union, with the enlargements of the past," he said.

Ukraine is also vying to be a member of the European Union. But experts say Kiyev has even less of a chance to become an E.U. member because the standards for getting into the European Union are much tighter than they are for membership in NATO.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Algeria Introduces New Military Strategy to Combat Terrorism in the Sahara

As al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) terrorists grow more active in the Saharan region, Algeria has introduced a new military strategy designed to restrict movement through the volatile border regions that Algeria shares with Niger, Mali and Mauritania. Algeria has deployed an additional 3,000 troops to the force of 15,000 men along the southern borders. Algerian military forces in this region fall under the command of the 6th military region, headquartered at Tamanrasset.

Together with border guards and the gendarmerie, the army will restrict movement in a number of regions of southern Algeria to those with a security permit. Eight border gates have been created along Algeria’s southern borders, intended to reduce the free movement of smugglers in the region. Individuals making unauthorized crossings through the border region will be given a single warning before being shot at by Algerian security forces. Vehicles moving at night through restricted zones will also be fired on by patrols equipped with night vision equipment. Wells and other water sources in the region will continue to be tightly controlled (El-Khabar [Algiers], December 22, 2009).

Algeria and Mali have also formed a joint military technical committee to address common security concerns. The committee held a three day meeting last month to discuss military coordination and cooperation with Western security services in dealing with the growing number of kidnappings of Westerners in Saharan Africa (El-Khabar, December 21).

Three Malians alleged to be associates of al-Qaeda were recently arrested in Ghana in a U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) sting operation. The suspects told undercover DEA agents that they were working with Colombia’s Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia - FARC) to ship cocaine through Algeria, Libya and Morocco to Spain under the protection of al-Qaeda operatives (Bikya Masr [Cairo], December 20, 2009; Los Angeles Times, December 19, 2009; AFP, December 18, 2009).

The discovery of a burnt out Boeing 727 airliner in the Malian desert in the region of Sinkrebaka, 125 miles north of the town of Gao, has reinforced the belief that South American drug smugglers are now actively involved in shipping drugs through West Africa into Europe (Air Cargo News, November 17, 2009; AFP, December 11, 2009).

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Israel and NATO – Between Membership and Partnership

MADRID – The idea of integrating Israel into NATO has frequently been advanced as bait to encourage the Jewish state to make the necessary concessions for an Arab-Israeli peace settlement. And some Israeli leaders – Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, for example – are convinced that joining NATO would act as a vital deterrent against Iran.

But it is highly unlikely that Israel’s full integration into the Alliance is feasible from NATO’s standpoint. The Alliance would not be happy to apply Article 5 of the NATO charter, which would oblige its members to fight for Israel if it were attacked by any of its many potential enemies in an endemically dangerous region.

Nor is it clear that membership would be in the best interest of Israel, a country whose defense doctrine has been always based on self-reliance and freedom of maneuver in security matters. Israel’s unwritten alliance with the United States is a more convenient alternative.

Cooperation and even partnership with NATO – an interim stage potentially leading to membership – is another matter. Notwithstanding the stalled peace process and the adverse effect that Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians is having on its international standing, NATO and Israel have been incrementally strengthening their cooperation in recent years. This serves the interests of both sides.

For the Israelis, cooperation with NATO is a major component of legitimacy in its frequently troubled relations with the West; for NATO, cooperation serves its capacity to work in new theaters of operation and respond to the changing profile of the threats it confronts. Such is NATO’s interest in Israel that Patrick Hardouin, a high official at the Political Affairs and Security Policy Department of the Alliance, made it explicit in 2006, saying that “the ups and downs of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must not limit Israel-NATO cooperation.”

In recent years, NATO has been undergoing major changes in both its deployment and objectives. Two landmarks define these changes: the end of the Cold War, which rendered NATO’s defensive strategy against the Soviet Union obsolete, and the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the US, which changed the profile of the enemy and the nature of the battlefield. It also changed the theater of operation, and forced the Alliance to shift its attention from Europe to the Mediterranean, the Middle East, and beyond.

NATO’s Mediterranean emphasis was inaugurated in 1994 through the Mediterranean Dialogue, which linked countries like Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Morocco, Mauritania, Algeria, and Tunisia in security discussions with the Alliance. The Dialogue was not exactly an edifying success, however.

The Istanbul Cooperation Initiative of 2004, triggered by the trauma of the 9/11 attacks, holds far greater potential, for it transforms NATO’s relations with friendly states in the Middle East from dialogue to partnership – a level comparable to the Partnership for Peace program used to promote Central and Eastern European countries to full membership. Under this framework, multilateral cooperation in combating terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction was offered to the region’s main actors. The Initiative also envisages the promotion of regional defense reforms and the improvement of interoperability among military forces in the region.

Nevertheless, both the Mediterranean Dialogue and the Istanbul Initiative suffer from the lack of a real multilateral culture of cooperation in security matters among the main regional players. The Arab-Israeli conflict is a major political obstacle, but by no means the only one. Morocco, Algeria, and Libya are hardly partners for such regional cooperation, which is also the case for most Arab countries in the Middle East.

Not surprisingly, then, of all the states in the region, it is Israel that has established the closest links with NATO. This reflects the benefits that NATO believes can be drawn from Israel’s unique military experience. Israel recently became the first country to conclude an Individual Cooperation Program with NATO, through which it conducts an ongoing strategic dialogue with the Alliance covering a wide array of areas, including terrorism, intelligence sharing, nuclear proliferation, procurement and logistics, and rescue operations. Israel also joined NATO’s naval control system in the Mediterranean, contributing to Operation Active Endeavor by joining NATO forces in patrolling the Mediterranean.

Both sides seem eager to expand the scope of their partnership, with the objective of reaching a high level of interoperability. Recently, in anticipation of a hypothetical confrontation with Iran, a major military maneuver – the Juniper Cobra exercise – was conducted to test Israel’s integration into US ballistic missile defenses. American sources described the drill as “the most complete air missile defense system we’ve ever done anywhere in the world.” It was a major contribution, they said, to the development of a planned NATO missile shield for Europe.

The options for further cooperation are many, ranging from intelligence and procurement to the development of an updated anti-terrorism doctrine (including cyber-terrorism), a domain to which NATO is a newcomer. David Ben-Gurion’s dream of Israel becoming a NATO member might not materialize, but the developing partnership reflects the Alliance’s unequivocal recognition that Israel shares the challenges facing the West and is a vital partner in developing responses to them.