The Future of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization: How Valuable an Asset?

Article excerpt

[The following are excerpts of the testimony presented to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Washington, D.C., June 22, 2007.]

I will make two key points:

* First, I will describe how the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is meeting current transatlantic security challenges.

* Second, I will highlight NATO's transformation, perhaps halfway through. We and our allies have done much more remains to be done.

Meeting Security Challenges

During the Cold War, NATO focused on Europe, because that's where the dangers were. Now, without abandoning its core missions, NATO increasingly looks outward, to dangers that can have roots far beyond Europe. These dangers include violent extremism, terrorism, nuclear proliferation, failed states, cyber attacks, and insecurity of energy resources. Protecting NATO members now also requires building partnerships and developing new capabilities.

The shift is historic. Europe's western half has been at peace since 1945, the longest peace since the Pax Romana and one now extended throughout Europe. Eleven states once behind the Iron Curtain are now democracies contributing to common security within NATO. NATO's missions span a wide geography and a wide array of activities. This trend is only going to continue. Clearly, there were differences over the war in Iraq, but they never paralyzed NATO. NATO's scope is demonstrated by NATO's two largest operations today: Kosovo and Afghanistan.

Kosovo

The Alliance has over 15,500 personnel deployed. Twenty-four of twenty-six NATO nations contribute forces to NATO peacekeeping force for Kosovo (KFOR), along with eleven non-NATO contributing countries. Over 1,500 of these are American. When Kosovo's status is resolved, which we believe will be through supervised independence, KFOR will continue to maintain a safe and secure environment during this critical time. Every poll taken in Kosovo shows NATO to be the single most respected institution there. Kosovo has been a success story for the Alliance. By proceeding with the resolution of its status, we can move toward ending our post-conflict military involvement.

Afghanistan

NATO's largest and most challenging mission, Afghanistan, says a lot about NATO today. Consolidation of a stable, democratic Afghanistan is a critical national interest for all Allies. The tools that NATO needs to succeed in Afghanistan expeditionary capability, counter-insurgency capacity, and, most important, an ability to combine security with governance and development, even when provided by other organizations, largely define the directions NATO must go in the future. Reports on a Taliban offensive this spring were in journalistic fashion for months. It never materialized thanks largely to the efforts and sacrifices of Afghan, U.S. and Allied forces.

Instead, NATO has taken the initiative with our own civil and military efforts. Thirty-seven countries', twenty-six allies and eleven non-NATO partners participate in NATO's United Nations (U.N.) mandated International Security Assistance Forces: over 40,000 troops. About 24,000 nearly 60 percent are from our allies and partners, and serve throughout all of Afghanistan.

We have continued to press allies to fill force shortfalls in International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), and since last fall allies and partners have pledged well over 7,000 new troops to the mission, most without caveats. Although some caveats remain a concern, allies have expressed a willingness to come to each others' aid, should the need arise. There is a new flexibility. NATO forces serve side-by-side with Afghan National Security Forces. We are also doing everything possible to train and equip Afghan National Army and Police forces. The recent supplemental passed by Congress, which provided funding to better train and equip Afghan forces, has helped us leverage even more from other contributors. …