After more than a decade of continuous military engagement in Afghanistan, NATO is preparing for troop withdrawal. Last week, US President Barrack Obama announced that all but 9,800 American troops will leave the country before the end of 2014 (the US being by far the biggest troop contributor to the NATO mission in Afghanistan). Remaining forces will stay to train, advise and assist Afghan security forces. With its last major combat operation drawing to a close, what role will NATO play in a post-Cold War world?
On Wednesday 4th June, Debating Europe will be partnering with the Security & Defence Agenda for its Annual Conference “Overhauling Transatlantic Security Thinking”, taking place in Brussels from 14:30 to 18:30.
We had a question sent in to us from Gary, asking what lessons NATO had learned from Afghanistan, and how those lessons would be institutionalised so they won’t be forgotten by future leaders.
We put this question to General Philip M. Breedlove, a four-star general in the US Air Force who currently serves as the Commander of US European Command as well as NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe. How would he respond?
How can NATO stay relevant in the twenty-first century? A great deal has changed since NATO was founded in 1949, even if recent events in Ukraine have stirred up memories of the past. There are those who would like to see NATO focus purely on “traditional” collective defence, while others argue that the organisation needs to adapt to counter new and unconventional threats from outside its borders, including insurgencies, global terrorism and cyber-warfare.
We had a question along these lines sent in by Chris, who asked whether NATO is now entering a “post-operational era” following the Afghanistan drawdown, or whether recent events in Ukraine and the Crimea might suggest otherwise.
Finally, we had a question from Chris asking whether NATO was prepared to meet the security challenges of the 21st century – from nuclear proliferation and piracy to cyber-attacks and terrorism. Does NATO’s structure still reflect the Cold War context, or is it flexible enough to adapt?
Is NATO still relevant in a post-Cold War world? What lessons have we learned from the NATO presence in Afghanistan? And what role should the organisation play in the 21st century? Share your questions, comments and thoughts in the form below and we’ll take them to policy makers and experts for their reaction!