2 October 2006 - MORE “BOOTS ON THE GROUND” IN SOUTHERN AFGHANISTAN, URGE NATO PARLIAMENTARIANS
NATO member countries “must redouble their efforts to provide the assets required to extend security” throughout Afghanistan, urged the members of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly in a declaration sent today to NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. NATO legislators stressed that “more 'boots on the ground' are needed in the southern part of Afghanistan to provide sufficient stability for sustained reconstruction”. The five-page declaration, representing the collective view of the members of NATO’s 26 parliaments involved in the Assembly, sets out the priorities for the Alliance ahead of the Riga Summit of NATO Heads of State and Government on 28-29 November.
On top of NATO’s priorities, legislators indicate, is the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan. “The increasing cost in human lives – and here we would wish to pay homage to the combatants who have fallen for the freedom of Afghanistan – demonstrates that this war is not yet won. NATO's commitment to Afghanistan constitutes a test of its ability to face the challenges of the new security order”. For this reason, “Alliance’s leaders must stress the need for member states to demonstrate the flexibility and commitment to provide the manpower and material needed for this mission”.
NATO parliamentarians highlighted the need for NATO forces to “have the flexibility to perform the range of operations demanded by a particular mission. All efforts should therefore be made to reduce the use of national caveats which all too often restrict national contingents from participating in operations to their full capability”. In addition, the NATO PA expresses the view that the current system “of having the costs of operations borne only by the participants in those operations should cease. The increased use of ‘on-call’ NATO forces such as the NATO Response Force demands a means of sharing the financial burden of deploying those forces across the Alliance in an equitable manner”.
As a general priority, the Assembly declaration stresses that “a central element of NATO's new role must be the commitment of all the Allies to use the Alliance framework for political consultation and coordination on the most important security challenges”, including “the rapidly deteriorating security situation in the Middle East”. This should be done “more regularly and in the framework of in-depth discussions by our political leaders”. NATO legislators also believe that Allies “must assess on a case-by-case basis where NATO’s collective capabilities and experience can be utilized, either independently or in close cooperation with other international organizations”.
In this regard, the Riga Summit should bring “further improvement of NATO’s relationships” with the European Union and the United Nations. In particular, with regard to the EU, parliamentarians urged that “a more systematic process of consultation and coordination is now imperative to ensure that resources are used effectively and that the plans and responses of NATO and the EU are better balanced and more harmonized. The Summit provides a chance to overcome the stalemate in relations between the two organisations”.
NATO legislators reaffirmed the importance of partnership programmes to assist “countries in different stages of political, economic and social transition”. They lament, however, that “funding for NATO’s many partnerships remains modest” and ask Alliance governments to “augment the resources committed”. The NATO PA document also indicates that, whilst “assistance to the Balkans and the south Caucasus must remain a priority”—as well as the special relationships with Russia and Ukraine—the Alliance should further develop its Mediterranean Dialogue and the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative, and also create “new forms of association for contributing non-partner countries”, such as Australia, Japan, New Zealand, and the Republic of Korea.
In conclusion, the Assembly appreciates its growing cooperation with NATO and enhanced dialogue with the North Atlantic Council. Legislators also “welcome the complementarity between the work of the Assembly and NATO particularly regarding partner nations” and urge “Heads of State and Government to acknowledge this role in their Riga Declaration and to reaffirm their support for the NATO Parliamentary Assembly and the shared goal of promoting democratic values”.