Monday, August 10, 2009

NATO Builds History's First Global Army

Afghan War: NATO Builds History's First Global Army
By Rick Rozoff

Two months before the eighth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan
and the beginning of NATO's first-ever ground war the world is witness to a
21st Century armed conflict without end waged by the largest military
coalition in history.

With recent announcements that troops from such diverse nations as Colombia,
Mongolia, Armenia, Japan, South Korea, Ukraine and Montenegro are to or may
join those of some 45 other countries serving under the command of the North
Atlantic Treaty Organization-led International Security Assistance Force
(ISAF), there will soon be military personnel from fifty nations on five
continents and in the Middle East serving under a unified command structure.

Never before have soldiers from so many states served in the same war
theater, much less the same country.

By way of comparison, there were twenty six (higher, and looser, estimates
go as high as 34) national contingents in the so-called coalition of the
willing in Iraq as of 2006. In the interim between now and then troops from
all contributing nations but the United States and Great Britain have been
withdrawn and in most cases redeployed to Afghanistan.

In 1999 NATO's fiftieth anniversary summit in Washington, D.C. welcomed the
first expansion of the world's only military bloc in the post-Cold War era,
absorbing former Warsaw Pact members the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland,
in the course of conducting NATO's first war, the relentless 78-day
bombardment of Yugoslavia, Operation Allied Force.

Two years later, after the 9/11 attacks in New York City and Washington,
D.C., NATO activated its Article 5 - "The Parties agree that an armed attack
against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered
an attack against them all" - for the first time in the bloc's history and
launched a number of operations from deploying German AWACS to patrol the
Atlantic Coast of the U.S. to launching Operation Active Endeavor, a naval
surveillance and interdiction program throughout the Mediterranean Sea which
continues to this day.

But the main effect, and the main purpose, of invoking NATO's mutual
military assistance clause was to rally the then 19 member military bloc for
the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and the stationing of troops,
warplanes and bases throughout South and Central Asia, including in
Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Flyover rights were also
arranged with Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan and newly acquired airbases in
Bulgaria and Romania have since been used for the transit of troops and
weapons to the Afghan war zone.

If the 1999 war against Yugoslavia was NATO's first "out of area"
operation - that is, outside of North America and those parts of Europe in
the Alliance - the war in Afghanistan marked NATO's transformation into a
global warfighting machine. In the years intervening between the October
2001 invasion of Afghanistan and now NATO officials and advocates have come
to employ such terms as Global, Expeditionary and 21st Century NATO.
Afghanistan provided the Alliance the opportunity to add to its previous
expansion to Eastern Europe with its attendant military operations in the
Balkans into asserting itself as the world's first global military force.

As the U.S. State Department's Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for
European Affairs Kurt Volker (later U.S. ambassador to NATO) said in 2006,
“In 1994 NATO was an alliance of 16 [countries], without partners, having
never conducted a military operation. By 2005, NATO had become an alliance
of 26, engaged in eight simultaneous operations on four continents with the
help of 20 partners in Eurasia, seven in the Mediterranean, four in the
Persian Gulf, and a handful of capable contributors on our periphery.” [1]

The updated details of what he was alluding to are these:

From 1999 to this year NATO has added twelve new members - Albania,
Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania,
Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia - all in Eastern Europe, nine of them
formerly in the Warsaw Pact and three former Soviet and two Yugoslav

All of the new members were prepared for full NATO accession under the
Partnership for Peace {PfP) program, which first demands weapons
interoperability (scrapping contemporary Russian and old Warsaw Pact arms in
favor of Western ones), increasing future members' military spending to 2%
of the national budget no matter how hard-hit the nation is since the
collapse of the Eastern Bloc, the purging of "politically unreliable"
personnel from military, defense and security posts, training abroad in NATO
military academies, hosting U.S. Alliance military exercises, and
instructing the officer corps in a common language - English - for joint
overseas operations.

With a dozen PfP graduates now full NATO members who have deployed troops to
Afghanistan - Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania,
Poland and Romania were also levied for troops in Iraq - the partnership
still includes every former Soviet Republic not already in NATO but Russia -
Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova,
Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan - and ten European nations
that had never before been part of a military bloc: Austria, Bosnia,
Finland, the Republic of Ireland, Macedonia, Malta, Montenegro, Serbia,
Sweden and Switzerland.

All of the latter but Malta and Serbia have been tapped for soldiers in
Afghanistan. The 28 full NATO members all have troops there also.

Of the former Soviet republics, troops from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Estonia,
Georgia, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova and Ukraine served in Iraq
under PfP obligations. At the time of the South Caucasus war last August
Georgia had the third largest national contingent in Iraq - 2,000 troops
deployed near the Iranian border - which the U.S. rushed home on transport
planes for the war with Russia.

NATO also upgraded its Mediterranean Dialogue, whose partners are Algeria,
Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia, at the 2004 NATO
summit in Istanbul, Turkey with the so-called Istanbul Cooperation
Initiative, which also laid the groundwork for military integration of the
six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council: Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar,
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The last-named is the only Arab
state to date with troops in Afghanistan.

The Afghan war has led to another category of NATO partnership, that of
Contact Countries, which so far officially include Australia, Japan, New
Zealand and South Korea.

The Alliance also has a Tripartite Commission with Afghanistan and Pakistan
for the prosecution of the dangerously expanding war in South Asia, and
defense, military and political leaders from both nations are regularly
summoned to NATO Headquarters in Belgium for meetings and directives.

Afghan and Pakistani soldiers are trained at NATO bases in Europe.

Though not members of formal partnerships, nations with troops serving under
NATO in Afghanistan like Singapore and Mongolia have been pulled into the
bloc's global nexus and necessarily adopt military doctrines and structures
in line with NATO standards.

Another component of the 2001 decision to activate the Alliance's Article 5
provision was to deploy NATO forces to the Horn of Africa, primarily to Camp
Lemonier in Djibouti, where they have conducted maritime surveillance and
boarding operations ever since. Last autumn NATO deployed its first naval
task force off the coast of Somalia.

In addition to the five African nations in the Mediterranean Dialogue, NATO
has expanded its penetration of the continent over the past eight years: An
Alliance naval group has docked in Kenya. NATO has held military maneuvers
in South Africa. Even Libya has begun cooperation with NATO in the

With the launching of the Pentagon's Africa Command (AFRICOM) last year -
and AFRICOM is the personal project of retired Marine General James Jones,
from 2003-2006 top military commander of NATO and the U.S. European Command
where AFRICOM was incubated and now U.S. National Security Adviser - the
distinction between Pentagon and NATO operations in Africa will be a largely
academic one and all of Africa's 53 nations except for Eritrea, Sudan and
Zimbabwe are potential Alliance partners.

The central focus for the operationalization of NATO's worldwide plans is
Afghanistan and adjoining nations.

In calendar year nine of the war in that nation and now with its expansion
into Pakistan NATO has built upon previous and current joint military
deployments in Bosnia, Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, Djibouti, Iraq, Kuwait,
Jordan, Sudan and off the coast of Somalia and secured a long-term, indeed a
permanent, laboratory for molding history's first international rapid
deployment, combat and occupation military force; a 650,000 square kilometer
firing and weapons testing range; a string of airbases in the center of
where Russian, Chinese, Indian and Iranian regional interests converge; a
boot camp for breaking in the armed forces of dozens of nations slated for
NATO membership.

As such, discussions about the "winnability" of the current war are beside
the point.

Although there are currently over 100,000 troops serving under U.S. and NATO
command in Afghanistan, many of them so-called niche deployment special
forces, mountain and airborne troops and other units ordered by NATO from
member and candidate nations, on August 7 the newly-installed Alliance
Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen issued an "open call for more
troops" which "was perhaps the clearest indication yet that a major
escalation ordered this year by new U.S. President Barack Obama is far from

In Rasmussen's words, "Honestly speaking, I think we need more troops." [2]

Two days after being sworn in as NATO chief on August 1 Rasmussen "ruled out
setting a deadline for the withdrawal of international forces from
Afghanistan, saying the western alliance will stay there 'for as long as it
takes.'" [3]

The new secretary general hadn't time to begin to settle into his new post
when he and NATO Supreme Allied Commander James Stavridis flew into Kabul on
an unscheduled visit two days afterwards "in order to get a comprehensive
view of the international effort." [4]

On August 7 British General David Richards, who will become Chief of the
General Staff on August 28, stated that "There is absolutely no chance of
Nato pulling out" [5] of Afghanistan and that his own nation's role there
"might take as long as 30 to 40 years." [6]

Eight days earlier the British ambassador to the U.S., Sir Nigel Sheinwald,
anticipated Richards in saying of the British - and by implication NATO -
role in South and Central Asia that "This is going to be for decades...."

In late July the Afghan ambassador to the U.S. also revealed that any hopes
for an imminent deescalation of the war in his country, not to mention its
eventual end, were non-existent by revealing that "NATO countries will
provide 8,000 to 10,000 additional troops to allow Afghans to vote securely"
[8] in this month's national elections. The official explanation by the U.S.
and NATO for their increased deployment of troops to Afghanistan is that it
is an ad hoc effort to insure the elections there proceed without
interruption, but past elections have occurred and the fighting has
increased with the introduction of more and yet more Western soldiers, tanks
and other armor, attack helicopters, warplanes and large-scale military

In fact August is a good month for a NATO summer offensive and concerns over
elections are a public relations ploy.

The day before the British envoy to the U.S. acknowledged the decades-long
plans of his country, his host country and NATO, British Foreign Minister
David Miliband held a joint press conference in Washington with his American
counterpart Hillary Clinton at which he stated that despite polls in both
Britain and America showing majority opposition to the continuation of the
Afghan war "I want to be absolutely clear that we (the UK and the US) went
into this together and we will work it through together, because we are
stronger together." [9]

That the British and American publics are as anxious for NATO troops to
leave Afghanistan as the Afghans themselves means nothing to Western
political elites for whom much more is stake than the fate of Afghanistan,
about which they couldn't care less.

As a reflection of the urgency the Pentagon and NATO attach to the
deteriorating security situation in the nation, an emergency conclave was
held on a U.S. airbase near NATO Headquarters in Belgium with American
Defense Secretary Robert Gates, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Admiral Mike Mullins, commander of NATO and U.S. forces in Afghanistan
General Stanley A. McChrystal, deputy commander of U.S. forces in
Afghanistan General David Rodriguez, NATO Supreme Allied Commander Admiral
James Stavridis and Central Command chief David Petraeus.

Two days later NATO's governing body, the North Atlantic Council, announced
plans "to reorganize the alliance's command structure in Afghanistan by
setting up a new headquarters" to be named Intermediate Joint Headquarters
and commanded by U.S. General Rodriguez.

A news account of the NATO decision said that "It is similar to the model
used in Iraq, where overall command of the multinational forces was under a
four-star American general, while a three-star general ran daily
operations." [10]

Afghanistan is not the only battleground in the South Asian war theater.

From July 20-24 senior leaders of the American and Pakistani armed forces
met in Atlanta, Georgia at a counterinsurgency seminar.

The director of the U.S. Army and Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Center,
Colonel Daniel Roper, said of the proceedings: "This week we presented some
lessons learned in counterinsurgency. We used those lessons to stimulate
conversation and took our previous experiences in Iraq and applied them to
our current status. We exchanged our viewpoints on the challenges in
Afghanistan, Pakistan and South Asia at large."

South Asia at large includes not only Afghanistan and Pakistan but India,
Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

Another U.S. military official present at the four-day workshop said,
"Pakistan is a pivotal country in our current operations. The Pakistan
military actually just came out of fighting the insurgency over there to
bring their knowledge to us and for us to talk about certain practices we
have used both historically and more recently in Iraq and Afghanistan." [11]

In early August commander of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan Stanley
McChrystal and Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard
Holbrooke spoke with Vietnam War scholar Stanley Karnow in an "effort to
apply the lessons of the earlier conflict to the fight against the Taliban.

"Holbrooke confirmed to The Associated Press that the three men discussed
similarities between the two wars. [Karnow] says envoy Richard Holbrooke
called him and passed the phone to Gen. Stanley McChrystal." [12]

Not only is "South Asia at large" included in the West's Greater Afghan war
but so is Central Asia and the Caspian Sea Basin. In both instances nations
already involved in providing bases for U.S. and NATO forces (Kyrgyzstan,
Tajikistan, Uzbekistan) and those supplying troops and ancillary services
are being pulled deeper into the NATO web.

This past January U.S. Central Command chief David Petraeus visited
Kazakhstan which like Mongolia, about which more later, is among only three
countries bordering both Russia and China, North Korea being the third.
Petraeus pushed for his host country to open up its air bases for transit to
Afghanistan and it was later revealed that discussions concerning the
recruitment of Kazakh troops for the war front were also held.

Kazakhstan is a member of the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty
Organization (CSTO) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) along
with three of its four Central Asian neighbors [Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and
Uzbekistan), Russia and China.

It is also the Caspian nation with the largest oil and natural gas deposits
and a key nation in Western plans to dominate the transport of hydrocarbons
to Europe and Asia.

The penetration of Kazakhstan, a member of NATO's Partnership for Peace, by
the Pentagon and NATO will simultaneously insert a hostile Western military
presence on Russia's and China's borders and undermine the very existence of
the CSTO and SCO. Part of the purpose of the war in Afghanistan, which was
started four months after the founding of the Shanghai Cooperation
Organization in June of 2001, is precisely to install U.S. and NATO military
forces in Central Asia to sabotage attempts by China and Russia to develop
common security, energy, transportation and other projects.

On August 7 American ambassador to Kazakhstan Richard Hoagland met with the
nation's defense minister to expand military collaboration.

"During the meeting Kazakh Defense Minister Dzhaksybekov paid special
attention to the increased number of actions under the plan of military
contacts...[and the] study of advanced experience and organization of the
U.S army, as well as the exchange of experience." The sharing of experience
has already included "over 320 Kazakh military men...trained within the
program of international military education and training in educational
centers of the U.S armed forces." [13]

Also on August 7 Pentagon chief Robert Gates expressed his gratification
that Kyrgyzstan, which earlier this year evicted U.S. and NATO troops from
the air base at Manas, had proven susceptible to bribery and allowed the
U.S. military to conduct transit again through the same base. The new
arrangement "will enable the U.S. and Kyrgyzstan to continue their highly
productive military relations created earlier...." [14]

Kyrgyzstan like Kazakhstan is a member of the CSTO and SCO, though it's not
certain for how long.

In Kazakhstan's Caspian neighbor to the south, Turkmenistan, the Pentagon
has been no less active of late. At the end of July Under Secretary of State
for Political Affairs William Burns announced plans for what was described
as an intergovernmental commission for regular consultations with
Turkmenistan which "marks progress in...the contribution to stability in
Afghanistan and across the region...." [15]

A news report two weeks earlier revealed that "Turkmenistan is quietly
developing into a major transport hub for the northern supply network, which
is being used to relay non-lethal supplies to US and NATO forces in
Afghanistan. The Pentagon has confirmed a small contingent of US military
personnel now operates in Ashgabat to assist refueling operations." [16]

Similar processes are occurring on the western end of the Caspian with
Azerbaijan and its neighbors in the South Caucasus. With the massive
increase of troops and equipment and the escalation of combat operations in
Afghanistan, NATO partners are being drafted into not only providing more
troops but making their airspace and air bases available for the transit of
soldiers, weapons and supplies. Plans are underway to employ air bases in
Bulgaria and Romania acquired in recent years as forward operating bases for
the U.S. and NATO alike to connect with bases in Georgia and Azerbaijan and
thence to Central Asia and Afghanistan.

Last month the world's first global strategic airlift base, at the air base
in Papa, Hungary - "the biggest NATO project in 40 years" [17] - was put
into operation for the war in South Asia and future conflicts in the East.
The twelve participating nations are NATO members Bulgaria, Romania,
Slovenia, Poland, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway and
the U.S. as well as two Partnership for Peace states, Finland and Sweden.

After the meeting of the Russian and U.S. presidents in Moscow last month,
Russia agree to permit the Pentagon up to 4,500 annual military flights over
its territory without fees, saving the U.S. up to $133 million a year in
total transit costs.

An analysis by an American writer, Alfred Ross, in Russia Profile several
days ago warned of the consequences of Russia's accommodation of American
war plans in South Asia:

"Under Obama, the U.S. military presence on Russia's Central Asian flank is
proceeding at a ferocious pace. The appointment of Richard Holbrooke, the
former NATO Ambassador who orchestrated NATO's attack on Yugoslavia as envoy
to the region is indicative of Obama's intentions. No area is more
strategically important than the 'Af-Pak' project, which positions U.S.
troops within the zone fronting on Iran, China, and Russia's Central Asia.

"For the new American irregular warfare approach, it is the ability to map
small terrain, analyze civilian traffic patterns and read local radar
systems that will be key to the next round of U.S. operations across
Russia's southern flank, from the Crimea to Kyrgyzstan." [18]

To further demonstrate the accuracy of his concerns it was recently
announced that Mongolia, which directly abuts Russia as well as China, was
sending an initial contingent of 130 troops to serve under NATO in

A news report of the offer stated that "Mongolia's involvement in Iraq and
Afghanistan has helped cement its alliance with the United States" and that
it will facilitate the nation's "third neighbor" policy to "reach out to
allies other than China and Russia." [19] Along with Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan,
Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, the South Asian war is being
exploited by Washington and Brussels to intrude their military structures
into nations neighboring Russia and China, reorganize their armed forces as
well as shift their interstate allegiances and further encircle two of the
West's main competitors in the region and the world.

South Korea is also discussing sending troops back to Afghanistan. Singapore
now has a unit serving with NATO's ISAF and the possible next defense
minister of Japan, the Democratic Party's Keiichiro Asao, recently affirmed
that his nation would consider sending ground troops to Afghanistan for the
first time. [20]

The Afghan war has also allowed the West to consolidate the creation of an
Asian NATO, with armed forces from the above-mentioned countries to join
those of Australia and New Zealand already there.

With regards to the other end of Eurasia, the former Soviet Union, in
mid-July a Moldovan helicopter operating under contact with NATO was shot
down in Afghanistan, killing the six Ukrainian crew members on board.

In the South Caucasus, Armenia announced two weeks ago that it planned to
send troops to Afghanistan "by the end of the year." An analyst from that
country said that "In addition to the Americans wanting Armenia, Armenia
also wants to play a greater role, a role in Afghanistan that also builds on
the strength of experience of Armenian peacekeepers who've served in Iraq
and Kosovo." [21]

Armenia, like all the former Soviet Central Asian nations except for
Turkmenistan, is a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization
with Russia and Belarus, and like the four others is being enticed by the
West to shift its loyalties to NATO.

Georgia just announced that it has assigned a battalion of US-trained troops
to Afghanistan and neighboring Azerbaijan has recently doubled its troops

Regarding the first nation, "Georgia has been involved in NATO operations in
the Balkans for nine years, and for five years in Iraq, along with the U.S.
and other NATO members.

"Georgia has proven its loyalty to the West by its actions since 1999. More
than 10,000 military personnel have participated in peacekeeping operations
first in Kosovo, then in Iraq and briefly in Afghanistan during 2005-06."

The same source remarked that "[T]he participation in real combat operations
along with the military units of such powerful countries will enrich
Georgian soldiers with substantive operational experience."

Combat experience that was put to use a year ago in its five-day war with
Russia. Three days ago the deputy chairman of the Georgian parliament's
foreign affairs committee, Georgy Kandelaki, told reporters that his
government would derive two major benefits from sending additional troops to

"First of all, our servicemen will gain combat experience because they will
be in the middle of combat action, and that is a really invaluable

"Secondly, it will be a heavy argument to support Georgia's NATO
aspirations." [23]

Gaining wartime combat experience in the Afghan campaign for action on its
border with Russia is not unique to Georgia.

A former commander of Finnish troops in the country, which in the past weeks
have been engaged in active combat operations in the north of Afghanistan,
said that "This is a unique situation for us, in that we will get to train
part of our wartime forces. That part will get to operate as close to
wartime conditions as is possible." [24]

Finland has a 1,300 kilometer border with Russia and is in the process of
moving toward full NATO membership despite the opposition of a majority of
its citizens. NATO is progressively encroaching on Russia's borders from
most every direction and the Afghan war is training the armies that may one
day engage in combat much closer to home.

The war in Afghanistan and on the other side of the border in Pakistan has
reached its highest pitch of intensity to date with Afghan civilian deaths
over 1,000 this year and the U.S. and NATO experiencing their highest death
tolls in almost eight years of warfare.

Britain has announced that it is sending 2,000 more troops and additional
Predator drones, Chinook and Merlin helicopters and armored vehicles.

Italy, France, Germany, Romania, Turkey, Portugal, Spain, new NATO members
Albania and Croatia and Contact Country partners Australia and New Zealand
have deployed and have been pressured to provide more troops, including
special forces units, warplanes, attack helicopters and armored vehicles for
the war.

A war that expanded into a 50-nation military campaign and that has fanned
out to include U.S. and NATO military incursions into South and Central Asia
and the Caspian Sea region.

A war that serves as a furnace to forge an integrated, battle-hardened
international military force that can be employed wherever else in the world
Brussels and Washington choose to use it in the future.

The Afghan war, then, is no ordinary war, as abhorrent as all wars are.

It is only going to expand in width and in the amount of blood shed, but
already it is distinguished by several developments:

It is the U.S.'s first war in Asia and its longest one anywhere since

It is NATO's first ground war and its first military campaign in Asia.

The German army has engaged in its first combat operations since the defeat
of the Third Reich in 1945.

Finnish soldiers have engaged in combat for the first time since World War
II and Swedish forces in almost 200 years.

Canada has lost its first troops in combat, 127, since the Korean War.

Australia has registered its first combat deaths since the Vietnam War.

More British soldiers have been killed, 191, than at any time since the
Falklands/Malvinas war in 1982.

A nation that borders Pakistan, Iran, China and two Central Asian nations
has been thrown into turmoil. The world's seven official nuclear nations are
either in the neighborhood - China, Pakistan, India and Russia - or are
engaged in hostilities - the U.S., Britain and France.

The only beneficiary of this conflagration is a rapidly emerging Global

1) Washington File, U.S. Department of State, May 4, 2006
2) Reuters, August 7, 2009
3) Bloomberg News, August 3, 2009
4) NATO International, August 5, 2009
5) BBC News, August 8, 2009
6) The Times, August 7, 2009
7) Boston Globe, July 30, 2009
8) Zee News (India), July 24, 2009
9) Press TV, July 29, 2009
10) Associated Press, August 4, 2009
11) United States Army, Army News Service, July 30, 2009
12) Associated Press, August 6, 2009
13) Trend News Agency, August 7, 2009
14) Interfax, August 7, 2009
15) Trend News Agency, July 24, 2009
16) EurasiaNet, July 8, 2009
17) Hungary Around The Clock, July 28, 2009
18) Russia Profile, July 31, 2009
19) Trend News Agency, July 22, 2009
20) Stars and Stripes, July 21, 2009
21) ArmeniaLiberty, July 23, 2009
22) Eurasia Daily Monitor, July 20, 2009
23) Russian Information Agency Novosti, August 6, 2009
24) Helsingin Sanomat, June 19, 2009


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home