Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts NATO Unbound: Out-of-Area Operations in the Greater Middle East

NATO Unbound: Out-of-Area Operations in the Greater Middle East

  • January 1, 2005

For more than a decade, the question of whether NATO should operate outside of its traditional European area has shrouded its future. Yet, barely noticed by a world preoccupied with events in Iraq, a NATO subordinate headquarters took full control of the International Stability and Assistance Force (ISAF) in Kabul in August 2003. Two months later, with UN authorization, the ISAF extended its mandate across all of Afghanistan. Policymakers on both sides of the Atlantic now suggest that NATO could eventually assume leadership of all international military forces in that country, where the United States had some 16,000 Soldiers in 2004 and the NATO-ISAF some 6,400.

While its presence in Iraq is unofficial except for the newly-formed NATO security forces training mission, NATO is deeply involved there. NATO member states Britain (in the Southeast) and Poland (Center-South) provide leadership for the Coalition’s two non-U.S. multinational divisions and supply more than 80 percent of the non-U.S. troop strength. NATO has provided the Polish contingent with intelligence, logistics, and administrative and technical support. Washington continues discussions with Brussels about NATO’s assuming leadership of one of the three divisions it currently leads, and some senior NATO leaders believe that it is only a matter of time before NATO becomes formally involved in Iraq.

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