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2/5/04 - NATO IN AFGHANISTAN AND IRAQ - 2004-02-06

Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, Secretary-General of NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, was in Washington recently to meet with President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell. The NATO alliance will soon add seven new members, all former Communist-bloc states from eastern and central Europe.

NATO was once focused on the defense of western Europe and the U.S. from the threat posed by the Soviet Union. NATO now has forces serving in Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina. And NATO is also in command of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.

Secretary of State Powell said that one of the issues he discussed with Mr. de Hoop Scheffer was expanding NATO’s responsibility to include the provincial reconstruction teams in Afghanistan:

“We talked about what the alliance is doing in Afghanistan, which is a major priority for the alliance, and which we all are working hard to make sure we get it right and serve the needs of the Afghan people.”

“If the political process fails” in Afghanistan, said NATO Secretary-General de Hoop Sheffer, “that country will become, once again, a haven for the terrorists who threaten us.... If we fail in Afghanistan, then who will have confidence in us again?”

Today, with support from the U.S.-led coalition, Afghans like army officer Rahim Allah say they are “very hopeful for the future, that it will be a peaceful future [in which] all Afghans from north and south, east and west, will work together as one nation for the rebuilding of a devastated land.”

Mr. de Hoop Scheffer says that NATO is also helping in Iraq:

“NATO is now supporting the Polish-led multinational division and NATO might take on a greater role when the sovereign Iraqi government would ask NATO to do that.”

Because of the threat from global terrorism, the role of NATO is different. As President Bush put it, “In this hour of challenge, NATO will do what it has done before: We will stand firm against the enemies of freedom, and we'll prevail.”