The military alliance that 61 years ago identified its core mission as to “promote stability and well-being in the North Atlantic area” is now embroiled in the tenth year of a war in Afghanistan launched by its dominant member, the United States.
South Asia is as far removed from the North Atlantic Ocean as possible while remaining in the Northern Hemisphere.
After 9/11, NATO signed on for participation in Washington’s so-called Global War on Terror, last year renamed Overseas Contingency Operations and perhaps to be called something else tomorrow as pretexts change.
As a consequence and demand alike of doing so, the North Atlantic Alliance deployed military forces to the first major military base the Pentagon has secured in Africa, Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, and on October 4, 2001 launched Operation Active Endeavour to patrol the entire Mediterranean Sea from the Strait of Gibraltar to the Suez Canal and the Dardanelles Strait, ostensibly to – in NATO’s own words – “help detect, deter and protect against terrorist activity” and especially to “combat…the proliferation and smuggling of weapons of mass destruction.”
NATO’s Active Endeavour is now in its tenth year and there is no indication that it will ever end, even though not a single terrorist has been apprehended or a weapon of mass destruction confiscated.
When an Israeli German-made Dolphin submarine, assumed to carry missiles with nuclear warheads crossed from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea in June of 2009, NATO made no attempt to interdict it.
The Mediterranean Sea has become NATO’s mare nostrum.
But it is in Afghanistan, and of late Pakistan, that NATO has emerged as a global combat force. With the recent transfer of tens of thousands of U.S. troops from Operation Enduring Freedom to NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), the Alliance now has the most troops under its command in a foreign mission in its history: 120,000 in Afghanistan compared to 60,000 in Bosnia in 1995, 50,000 in Kosovo in 1999, several thousand in Djibouti since 2001 and a smaller force in Macedonia starting in the same year.
The Afghan war is also the battleground on which NATO has lost its first soldiers in combat operations.
As of October 10, the U.S. and its NATO allies have lost 2,144 troops, almost 1,100 since last year. So far this year 574 foreign troops have been killed, 27 percent of the total in the over nine-year-long war, compared to 55 in Iraq, a more than ten-to-one ratio. And whereas all those killed in Iraq this year were American servicemen, almost 35 per cent of all occupation forces slain in Afghanistan were non-American.
A US armed forces publication recently disclosed that US Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) is training joint terminal attack controllers (JTACs) from fellow NATO nations at an American Air Force school in Germany to order bombing runs in Afghanistan. Canada, which has more than once announced plans to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan without doing so, reactivated the 1st Canadian Division Headquarters in Kingston, Ontario on October 8 under the command of Major-General David Fraser, who commanded NATO troops in Qandahar in southern Afghanistan in 2006.
On October 6 an Afghan soldier fired a rocket-propelled grenade at an outpost manned by French troops in the northeastern province of Kapisa.
Three NATO soldiers were killed in attacks in southern and eastern Afghanistan. The next day three more NATO soldiers were killed in the south of the country.
Also on October 8, a German soldier was killed and six others wounded – two seriously, one critically – in northern Afghanistan in a suicide bomb attack, bringing Germany’s death toll to 44. A German news agency reported that “The Germans came under mortar and rifle fire after the detonation and the skirmish apparently lasted for several hours.” The same source stated that there are 5,350 German soldiers now stationed in the north, up from the 4,500 maximum allowed for by the Bundestag until this February. The number is substantially higher than any previous amount of German troops stationed abroad – and moreover for war – since World War Two.
The following day four Italian soldiers were killed and another injured in an attack in western Afghanistan, bringing Italy’s death count to 34. “The victims were killed when a bomb exploded near their armoured car, part of a column of 70 Italian military vehicles.”
On the same day a member of Australia’s Special Operations Task Group was wounded in a roadside bomb attack. According to the country’s Ministry of Defence, 21 Australian soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan and 150 wounded, 50 of the latter this year.
With the war in Afghanistan and its expansion into Pakistan, NATO is not only waging an armed conflict in Asia, it is also consolidating military partnerships with nations in the Asia-Pacific area and creating the nucleus of an Asian NATO.
On October 8 Britain’s Chief of Joint Operations, Air Marshal Sir Stuart Peach, signed a Memorandum of Understanding at his nation’s Permanent Joint Headquarters with the minuscule Pacific island nation of Tonga to supply over 200 troops for NATO’s ISAF in Afghanistan. The deployment is to occur over the next two years, beginning with a contingent of 55 soldiers to be trained by the British Royal Air Force next month for stationing in Helmand province. Although a news report attributes the move to Tonga’s alleged desire to “show its support to the alliance,” it also revealed that “the Tongan service members will receive an operational allowance in British pounds in addition to their standard salary for the duration of their deployment.”
Not only is NATO intensifying its involvement in Afghanistan as well as extending its combat operations into Pakistan, but it is preparing more missions of the nature and scope of that in South Asia as part of its 21st Strategic Concept to be adopted next month at its summit in Portugal.
On October 7 Reuters reported in a story called “NATO says must stay capable of Afghan-size missions,” that NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has emphasized “the need for NATO to retain the ability to mount major missions around the world.”
A war in its tenth year in which NATO casualties mount by the day is not sufficient for an increasingly ambitious and expansionist organ, although it has been unable to suppress ragtag militias in Afghanistan.
By Rick Rozoff, a political analyst, taken from 'The Global Research' website.