NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen discussed the future of peace operations in a recent speech at the University of Chicago. He argues that though the Afghanistan mission ultimately shows that NATO can maintain "unity and cohesion" even in the most difficult of circumstances, collaboration with NGOs, the UN and the EU must be increased.
Mr. Rasmussen enumerates his recommendations for improving NATO's effectiveness in future peace operations:
- Strengthen the interaction between military security and civilian development to promote a comprehensive approach.
- Engage in a dialogue and consultation with important actors and stakeholders by developing global partnerships.
- Reform military make forces more deployable.
- Develop a capacity to train and educate local security forces [to watch a NATO channel video on Afghan female General Khatool Mohammadzai, follow this link]
- Appreciate the power and potential of NATO
The following is an excerpt from the speech that highlights Rasmussen's central argument:
...we need what we call a comprehensive approach. And that is the first lesson of this mission. The days when the military could defeat the enemy, then hand the baton off to the civilians and go home, are past us.
And Afghanistan is not unique. There are 16 major armed conflicts underway today. All of them are within, rather than between states. In many cases, it is the basic pillars of society that need to be rebuilt. This means that the military and civilians need to work much more closely than they have in the past.
That might seem obvious and easy to do. It isn't. And there is a bit of a strange paradox in how this has evolved. At the national level, NATO Governments have generally moved towards a "whole of Government" approach to Afghanistan.
Diplomats, defense ministries and development experts sit together, plan together and operate together, including in Provincial Reconstruction Teams all over Afghanistan.
But at the international level, this lesson has simply not yet been learnt. Let me illustrate it by a concrete example. The European Union does both development and police training in Afghanistan. Nevertheless, the EU and NATO do not plan or coordinate together. For political reasons totally separate from Afghanistan.
The same is basically true of NATO and the United Nations. I consider this to be an unacceptable waste of resources and effectiveness.
The lack of communication with non-governmental organizations is also striking. I recently suggested publicly that we needed to work more closely with NGOs, so that their "soft power" could complement our hard power.
Their reaction, I can tell you, was not very receptive. I think they are worried about becoming a party to a conflict. They wish to remain neutral. Therefore, they are often reluctant to work under military protection.
I fully understand those objections. But we have to discuss this and work it through. Because in a situation where everything is connected, but where NATO cannot do everything, there must be more discussion and, where appropriate, more coordination between the military and civilian sides, from the planning stages to field operations. In peacetime, we must get to know each other and train together, for the inevitable moment when we are thrown together in a real crisis.
We also need to look, within NATO, at what civilian roles the Alliance itself might need to develop. We've put a senior civilian representative in Afghanistan to work the political issues, alongside the military commander. It's a first. Some were uncomfortable when we put this in place. But it's necessary. And it might be necessary again.
To my mind, none of this is abstract theory. The less effective we are at adopting a comprehensive approach, the longer it will take for this mission to succeed. Last year, NATO lost more than one soldier a day, on average, in Afghanistan. That math is clear. And behind the math are lost lives. And it must not be ignored. We cannot allow old-think to hold us back. The cost is far too high.
This brings me to my second lesson. We don't just need better relations with other international organizations and NGOs. To my mind, NATO also needs to institutionalize a broad and inclusive security dialogue and, where appropriate, partnership with relevant countries from around the world.
Now, this might seem non-controversial to you. And frankly, I think it should be. But some fear NATO stretching itself too thin. Others are afraid that NATO wants to rival the UN. For these reasons among others, there is hesitation about NATO engaging more systematically with countries like India or China.
To read Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen's entire speech, given at the University of Chicago on April 8th 2010, please follow this link.
Atlantic-community.org's "Focus Afghanistan" section is sponsored by NATO.