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Afghanistan: Action Role for Australians With NATO

  • November 17th, 2006
  • Posted by 7thmin

isaf-forces-afghanistan-reduced.jpgAll Australian forces in Afghanistan were to be transferred to the NATO command organisation “in a matter of days”, the alliance disclosed today after talks among its most senior military leaders.

A spokesperson said that forces setting up in operational areas were given time to organise logistics before coming under the operational command structure .

The 450 Australian troops would join the ISAF command, the International Security Assistance Force, set up now under the leadership of NATO with 37 contributing countries.

The Generals confer

Members of the Military Committee of NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, met this week at the alliance headquarters in Brussels to prepare for the summit of NATO heads of government, at Riga in Latvia, later this month.

The Committee Chairman, General Ray Henault, said the senior military commanders had concentrated of Afghanistan, where there were still shortfalls in troop numbers and material.

He said a number of countries had made additional commitments since estimates became known last July, that military strength was at 85% of full requirements.

Some had difficulty increasing their support because of military action or peace-keeping commitments in other places, or were prevented by budget restrictions.

Further talks were needed with allied governments and military chiefs next week, before the summit beginning on 27th November, which would consider force levels.

Fighting on the ground
Australian units have been sent to one of the four Southern provinces of Afghanistan which have seen much of the recent fighting with Taliban forces.

General Henault said the Afghanistan international force, numbering over 31 000, had met more resistance than expected as it expanded its operations outward from Kabul, especially in the East and South of the country – though it had been getting the upper hand.

“NATO although it may not have totally anticipated the level of violence that we were facing and have now overcome, in the Southern region, nevertheless was able to rise to the challenge, and that’s the important fact,” he said.

“I say that because all of the troops that are involved in the Southern region, and elsewhere in Afghanistan because there are threats across the country, have really risen to this challenge and have shown that NATO is capable of doing what it needs to do.

“It needs to do the job that it is committed to by the Alliance, that is to maintain stability and security, and if that means combat operations, then NATO forces have done that, and I am very complimentary of that.”

Deals before the Summit
General Hernault said he had been pressing individual countries to lift or modify so-called caveats that restricted what their forces would be allowed do.

In particular he wanted a loosening of any geographical restrictions on where they could operate, and some changes had been achieved.

He said the involvement of so-called outsider “contact” countries, like Australia, which were not NATO members, was important to the allied leadership.

“They value and appreciate the countries of contact like Australia.

“We want to ensure that they are fully integrated with NATO forces,” he said.

Relations with the contact countries notably Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea will be debated at this month’s summit, with some member countries wanting limit the relationship, so NATO does not become a “global” organisation.

There is some diplomatic sensitivity about the location of the gathering in Riga, as it will be the first major event hosted by a member country of the Western alliance that borders on Russia and was formerly part of the Soviet Union.

Picture: Allied forces in Afghanistan; NATO