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6/22/03 - NATO REORGANIZES - 2003-06-23

NATO defense ministers have agreed to overhaul the alliance’s command structure to adapt to the terrorist threat and prepare for more operations outside Europe. While the number of NATO military headquarters in Europe will be drastically reduced, NATO members have committed to acquiring the military equipment and capabilities necessary to move troops and equipment beyond Europe.

The soon-to-be-formed NATO response force will have some twenty-thousand troops and will be able to deploy outside of Europe in days rather than months.

NATO Secretary General George Robertson says the allies have weathered political tensions over the war in Iraq and emerged stronger and more united. He cites recent decisions by the alliance to expand operations beyond Europe:

“NATO’s decision to assist Turkey, to take over the international security assistance force in Kabul, and to help Poland in Iraq could not have been made by a disunited alliance. They were made by a transformed NATO, willing and able to meet today’s threats from wherever they may come.”

In Afghanistan, NATO will lead the International Security Assistance Force in Kabul from August, leading that peacekeeping operation much as it has done in Bosnia and Kosovo. In Iraq, NATO will provide assistance to Poland, which is leading one of the three multinational divisions helping to stabilize Iraq. NATO will not have a permanent presence in Iraq, but will aid Poland with communications and logistics.

With these decisions, NATO members have gone a long way toward refashioning the alliance into an organization prepared to take on new threats such as global terrorism. As U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said, NATO “is moving forward to transform itself to fit the twenty-first century.”