Challenges Facing NATO and the Transatlantic Community Post-2014

"The transatlantic community will still need NATO.  And NATO will need to be ready"

From Alexander Vershbow, NATO:  2014 represents a key date for NATO because it is the year when we will end our combat mission in Afghanistan.   Just last week, we reached an important milestone in that mission when President Karzai announced that Afghan security forces will now take the lead for security across the whole country.  Afghan forces are already showing that they have the capacity and the professionalism to plan and conduct operations and to take the fight to the Taliban.  As a result, ISAF will shift from a combat role to a support role, and we are on track to complete our mission at the end of next year, as planned.

We are already preparing a new, smaller mission to train, advise and assist the Afghan security forces beyond 2014.  And while I have no doubt NATO will undertake other operations and missions in the future, their size and duration is likely to decrease.  Post-2014, our operational tempo is likely to reduce, and that will require a change in focus for the Alliance. 

Instead of being deployed on operations, we will need to be prepared for operations and other contingencies.  We will need to find new ways to maintain the readiness and interoperability that we have gained during nearly two decades of operations in the Balkans, Afghanistan, Libya and other theatres.  

Let me hasten to add that, while NATO’s operational tempo is likely to reduce, the transatlantic need for NATO certainly won’t.  The risks and threats we face will not miraculously disappear.  As a transatlantic community, we will still need a full-spectrum capability ready to deal with the whole spectrum of possible threats to our interests and our security, whether in our own neighborhood or beyond. 

The United States will still look to Europe as its partner of choice.  Europe will still need the United States to help it conduct some of the more demanding and complex military operations.  And the United States and Europe, as a community of nations united by common values and a shared history, will look to each other to defend and promote those values in an increasingly complex, globalized world. 

For all these reasons, the transatlantic community will still need NATO.  And NATO will need to be ready.  We cannot afford to pause or take a rest after a successful transition in Afghanistan!

Excerpt from address by Ambassador Alexander Vershbow NATO Deputy Secretary General at the 30th International Workshop on Global Security, Hôtel national des invalides – Paris, June 24, 2013.  (photo: French Army Museum)

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