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4/28/03 - NATO’S NEW ROLE - 2003-04-28

NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, was originally created to defend Western Europe from the threat posed by the Soviet Union. But with the end of the Cold War, NATO has been opening its membership to former Soviet-bloc countries. It has also run successful peacekeeping missions in Bosnia, Macedonia and Kosovo. Now, as U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said, NATO is taking on a new assignment:

“In August, NATO will take over the direction of the International Security Assistance Force in Kabul, in Afghanistan. Now, ten years ago, when we were wondering about ‘whither NATO’, about whether there would be a role for NATO, and could NATO think about going out of area, we were thinking about just out of the immediate NATO area. Nobody could have anticipated then that NATO would go half way across the world to Asia and perform peacekeeping missions in a place like Afghanistan.”

NATO member countries already have been providing on an individual basis, most of the troops for the security force in Kabul. NATO’s official assumption of responsibility for security in the Afghan capital will be the organization’s first significant military mission outside Europe. It will operate in Afghanistan under a United Nation’s mandate.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said that NATO’s decision “is a sign of the alliance’s new direction and emphasis on confronting the threats of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction from wherever they come.”

Afghanistan was the first battleground in the war against global terrorism. In Afghanistan, the extremist Taleban regime was removed from power and al-Qaida’s terrorist training camps were closed down. A U.S.-led coalition helped the Afghans liberate their country; now NATO is helping Afghanistan secure a better future.