Afghan war key to NATO’s new mission

Associated Press / May 18, 2010

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BRUSSELS — NATO must win the war in Afghanistan, expand ties with Russia and even China, counter the threat posed by Iran’s missiles, and assure the security of its 28 members, according to the alliance’s proposed mission statement for the next decade.

The draft document, released yesterday, seeks to bridge a growing rift between the United States, which favors a greater international role for NATO, and European nations that want it to retain its traditional defensive focus.

“NATO must be versatile and efficient enough to operate far from home,’’ said Madeleine Albright, the former US secretary of state and the head of the team of experts who wrote the document. “[But] in order to sustain the political will for operations outside its area, NATO must see that all its members are reassured about the security of their home territories.’’

The document warned governments not to slash defense spending at a time of economic crisis, because of the growing discrepancy in military capabilities between the United States and Europe’s NATO members.

Most European nations are not even meeting the minimal requirement of devoting 2 percent of their GDP to defense.

America’s latest defense budget of over $710 billion dwarfs the combined annual military expenditures of its European allies, which total about $280 billion.

Despite the added expenses of the Afghan war, many European capitals are planning further cuts or freezing their current outlays.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen will use the draft as a basis for a new strategic concept that will be submitted for approval at the alliance’s next summit in Lisbon, Portugal, in November.

The 28-member North Atlantic Treaty Organization was founded in 1949 to counter the threat of a Soviet invasion.

The war is the largest mission ever attempted by the alliance.