On Tuesday, the foreign ministers of 56 participating states in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe will gather in Athens to review the security developments in a region spanning from Vancouver to Vladivostok.

The OSCE is the biggest security organization in the world, established during the 1970s detente between the Soviet Union and the West. But the security environment has changed drastically since then, and the OSCE will have to be more than a human rights platform to play a relevant role going forward.

More than 10 years have passed since the OSCE held a security review summit. The 1999 OSCE Summit in Istanbul was the last. But the security context that defined Istanbul was shattered only two years later, on Sept. 11, 2001. NATO has undergone two strategic concept reviews since then, and the EU, Russia and the United States have all adjusted their national security doctrines.

Next year Kazakhstan takes over the chairmanship of the OSCE from Greece, which in itself is an important point in the organization’s history. For the first time, a country that once belonged to the former Soviet Union will lead the OSCE. It also says a lot about the importance of stability in Central Asia for the European-Atlantic alliance. The central question on the table now is whether the OSCE should deploy a mission to Afghanistan, something Washington strongly supports and many other OSCE countries strongly oppose.

But before the OSCE gets more involved in Afghanistan, there is a need for a comprehensive debate about how the OSCE should be reformed to meet the security challenges of tomorrow. Embarking on an Afghan mission under the present understanding of the common tasks and responsibilities of the OSCE, the mission will surely fail. This will have disastrous consequences for an organization that already lacks credibility.

If the OSCE is to open a mission in Afghanistan, does this mean that the organization’s future will be conducting operations in external regions? If yes, what will be the criteria for choosing them, and how will the OSCE finance and staff them?

Kazakhstan rightly understood that we need answers to these fundamentals before adding Afghanistan to the list of OSCE responsibilities. This is why Astana’s offer to host a summit in 2010 at the level of heads of state is the right idea. The OSCE foreign ministers would be wise to back this proposal in Athens.

Washington has been skeptical of the idea of a summit from the start. This is shortsighted because the United States stands to benefit the most from it. Ultimately, if the OSCE does send a mission to Afghanistan, this would mean that Washington’s heavy burden would be shared by the OSCE, including Russia and Central Asian countries. This can help U.S. President Barack Obama in scaling down U.S. exposure in Afghanistan. The OSCE could do a great deal of work on border, police and administrative training. The organization’s track record from the Balkans is impeccable in these areas.

But an OSCE mission in Afghanistan would come at a price, of course. Washington will have to reach an agreement with Moscow on how to rebalance the OSCE’s three main functions — human rights, economy and security.

Kazakhstan’s good relations with both Moscow and Washington give Astana an opportunity to facilitate this deal. This would help pave the way for the OSCE to play an important security and peacekeeping role in Afghanistan.

Borut Grgic, a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, is the founder and chairman of the Institute for Strategic Studies in Brussels.  This essay was previously published in the Moscow Times