Byline: Louis Golino, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
The war on terrorism requires significant internal reform of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, according to U.S. and European officials.
The transformed NATO alliance will have a new command structure and military concept, and capabilities better suited to the challenges of counterterrorism and weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
Some key decisions on adapting NATO for the war on terrorism are expected to be made at a NATO summit in the Czech Republic this November.
Thirty hours after the September 11 terrorist attacks last year against the United States, NATO for the first time in its history invoked the collective-defense clause of its founding treaty (Article 5 of the Washington Treaty). Article 5 says that an attack against one NATO ally is an attack on all allies.
But in the weeks and months that followed, the Bush administration chose not to run its global war on terrorism through the alliance's integrated command structure, and gave NATO and its European allies a relatively minor role in the war.
Is NATO still relevant?
Analysts on both sides of the Atlantic question whether NATO is still relevant in light of the supporting role it has played to date in the war on terrorism and what appears to be waning U.S. interest in NATO.
Former government analyst and NATO expert Stanley Sloan, a visiting scholar at Middlebury College, said: "Some Pentagon officials privately dismissed NATO's formal invocation of the alliance's mutual-defense provision and complained that the alliance was not relevant to the new challenges posed by the counterterror campaign."
Mr. Sloan added that Washington "may have been wrong about the potential utility of at least making a nod in the direction of the NATO offer and using it as a platform for future construction of a more relevant role for the alliance."
Beside requesting only a limited activation of Article 5, the United States rejected some initial European offers of military assistance and was slow to accept others, according to press reports. According to Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith, the United States was so busy developing its war plans in the early stage of the conflict that it did not have time to focus on coordinating Europe's military role.
NATO's limited role
Undersecretary of State Marc Grossman added that the United States initially "blew off a little bit" NATO's direct role in the war on terror, which included the deployment of airborne warning and control system surveillance (AWACS) planes, naval vessels and other measures.
But Bush administration officials also say that the United States greatly appreciated NATO's historic Article 5 invocation as a demonstration of allied political solidarity and trans-Atlantic commitment to common values.
According to U.S. Ambassador to NATO Nicholas Burns, President Bush told NATO Secretary-General George Robertson that the invocation of Article 5 was the first sign of international solidarity with the United States after September 11, and that he greatly appreciated this action and "the help of our NATO friends."
Analysts on both sides of the Atlantic also explain that while the United States overwhelmingly has dominated the war in Afghanistan, European countries played a more substantial role than they are publicly given credit for by U.S. officials.
For example, French planes have flown the second-highest number of air missions in Afghanistan after the United States. In addition, special forces from the United Kingdom and other European countries were deployed to Afghanistan soon after September 11, and European countries have formed the core of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.
NATO analysts add that although the alliance has not played a very large direct role in the current conflict, NATO provided the framework that allowed the United States to call on those countries that are involved in the war. …