29 November 2006 - NATO RISKS LOSING BATTLE FOR “HEARTS AND MINDS” IN AFGHANISTAN, WARNS NATO PA PRESIDENT [PRESS COMMUNIQUE]
"A much better balance between military action and reconstruction" is needed if NATO is to win "the all-important battle for 'hearts and minds' at home and in Afghanistan" warned Bert Koenders, President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, in his address to Alliance Heads of State and Government gathered in Riga for the NATO Summit, on 29 November.
"Afghanistan is the reality check on all aspects of NATO's transformation", Mr Koenders said to NATO leaders, bringing the view of the Assembly's 248 legislators from Alliance countries.
Noting that NATO Parliamentarians, meeting recently in Quebec, called upon NATO governments to "deploy the required capabilities", Mr Koenders insisted in Riga that "one hundred percent means one hundred percent. Anything less places operations at risk and reduces the scope for reconstruction".
The NATO PA President added that there is "strong parliamentary support" for removing those national caveats that impair the effectiveness of NATO in the field, and for establishing "a more equitable system of common funding.".
But the battle for 'hearts and minds' requires "at all times" respect for the Afghani people and strict adherence to international humanitarian law and the Geneva Conventions. Working with other international organisations is a crucial aspect for NATO, and a common approach must be adopted towards Afghanistan's government "by emphasising that much more needs to be done in the fight against corruption, drug traffickers and the neglect of the South". NATO and the EU in particular should work better together and "end institutional rivalry and bickering", Koenders said.
While commending the role of the armed forces in all NATO operations, Mr Koenders admitted that "political leaders have not yet passed the test". "Politicians" he said in Riga "must lead public opinion and build the consensus to reinvent a more political NATO", despite the difficulties represented by "transatlantic differences and a sceptical public opinion that is increasingly inward-looking".The full text of Mr. Koenders' speech can be found here.