NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer says NATO needs to take on a greater political role and should modernize military capabilities for new types of missions the organization is likely to face. He was addressing representatives from 40 countries at the 50th session of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly in Venice.
NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said the North Atlantic Alliance must play a stronger political role in future missions. This role, he said, should have the same weight as its operational contribution. For the moment, he added, the political process is largely carried forward by others and this needs to change.
"NATO should also be one of the, not the exclusive one of course, but one of the political actors in areas and in theaters where Nato has an operation or a mission," said Jaap de Hoop Scheffer.
Taking the example of Afghanistan, he said NATO must play a political role in what will occur after the spring parliamentary elections. He said the alliance will support the electoral process and live up to its promises.
The president of the NATO parliamentary assembly, Doug Bereuter, said the Afghan parliamentary elections will be a much greater challenge for NATO than the presidential ones in terms of security and logistics. He said this is also due to the larger involvement of warlords who are partly funded by the heroin trade.
The NATO secretary-general agreed that a concerted international effort, in cooperation with the Afghan government, must be made to see how the enormous problem of drug production and trafficking can be tackled.
"As long as one gram of heroin costs $1 in Afghanistan and that same gram of heroin costs $100 when it is sold in Amsterdam, or Brussels or Paris you can understand what profits are being made," he said. "So we should confront this problem head on."
Mr. de Hoop Scheffer said it is essential to take part in missions in Afghanistan, the Balkans, and Iraq if the security of citizens is to be guaranteed. He added that these are as essential as the deterrence role played by NATO during the Cold War.
The secretary-general said security can be attained only if the potential risks and threats that arise far from our homes are addressed. To do this successfully, he said, the understanding and backing of our publics is needed.
Mr. Bereuter said that is where individual parliaments play an important role.
"Parliamentary awareness and understanding and today's security challenges is really indispensable to finding solutions and of course it's the parliaments, the members of congress, the elected officials of these legislative bodies that provide the under girding support for NATO operations," said Doug Bereuter.
Mr. de Hoop Scheffer also said modern military capabilities are required for the new types of mission. He said forces that can react quickly, that can be deployed over distance and then sustained over a period of time are required. He said these should be a mix of forces capable of performing both high intensity combat tasks and post-conflict reconstruction work.