Earlier this summer U.S. Ambassador to NATO Ivo H. Daalder stepped down from his posting to become president of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. TAI editor Adam Garfinkle recently spoke with him about his tenure in Brussels, focusing on some of the key issues that continue to animate Transatlantic discussions.Adam Garfinkle: Looking back on some four years of service as U.S. Ambassador to NATO, what would you say is the single accomplishment of which you are most proud—either you personally and/or the Obama Administration? And what single regret from unrequited effort carries the heaviest weight? Ivo Daalder: It’s difficult to pinpoint just one accomplishment or regret. There have been a few of each. But if you force me to single out just one clear accomplishment, it would be the revitalization of NATO as an important instrument of our engagement abroad. When I arrived in Brussels in May 2009, on the heels of the Strasbourg-Kehl Summit celebrating NATO’s sixtieth anniversary, there was a real question about the Alliance’s role in the world. What was NATO for? There were deep divisions over Russia, reflecting differences over the Georgia War, and also over whether NATO’s focus should be territorial defense or expeditionary operations. By the next Summit, in Lisbon in November 2010, these questions had been answered in a new Strategic Concept, which in clear and concise language described NATO’s core tasks: collective defense, crisis management and cooperative security. And NATO, as President Obama affirmed, was once again the cornerstone of our engagement in the world. The test—and proof—came three months later, when NATO decided in just ten days to take on the Libya mission to protect the Libyan people against attacks by the Qaddafi regime. That was speed, by any measure—but especially compared to the three years it took NATO to engage in Bosnia, two years to decide to go to Afghanistan, and one year to begin air operations in Kosovo. The biggest regret I have is that despite our success in defining what NATO is for, we were unable to convince our European partners to make the financial investments to sustain and build the capabilities necessary for a strong transatlantic partnership. The financial crisis led to severe, across-the-board cuts in defense spending, while the quickening pace of military operations diverted scarce resources from long-term investment into sustaining immediate operations. As a result, there is a growing imbalance of effort within the Alliance, with the United States accounting for more than 70 percent of the overall NATO defense effort. This disparity is unsustainable, and I worry that our Allies may not have the political wherewithal to make the long-term investments necessary for them to be the strong partners we need to address today’s and tomorrow’s security challenges. Adam Garfinkle: Interesting comment, Ivo, pregnant with several ways to follow. Let me just introduce a few, and you can choose to respond to all or some, as you like. First, I’m glad there’s a new Strategic Concept, even if it took a lot longer to come up with it than one might have thought after the end of the USSR. But the fact that the Concept is, to my way of thinking, kitchen-sink-like in its expansiveness shows why it took so long: There’s still no real consensus on why the Alliance still exists after the end of the Cold War, which goes some ways toward explaining why the European allies are reluctant to put their money where their Concept it. And as you well know, that reluctance preceded the financial crisis. As I see it—and please correctly me if you think I’m wrong—our older, West European allies want NATO because they want the United States tied to the politics as well as the security of the Continent. They see no serious existential security threats, but with Germany now united, large, rich and confused, the United States is the only convening platform, so to speak, that can drive European consensus views on anything beyond the ambit of narrow EU concerns. The East-Central Europeans want NATO for a similar if broader convening reason, but also because, justified or not, they still haven’t gotten over their distrust of Russia in the mid- to long-term. That a consensus does not make, even though the bottom line everywhere is that, yes, all the European members want the alliance to continue—as long as they don’t have to pay a lot for it and as long as no one forces a reconciliation of the different rationales across the Continent. So, wisely I suppose, we don’t force it. And, just by the way, this is nothing new after the Cold War; NATO was from the start a multi-purpose and multi-tier alliance. The less we discussed the gaps in public, the better. Still, I suspect that this nuance consumed rather a lot of your day-job over the past four years. Second, I’m much more impressed with the Obama Administration’s performance regarding NATO in actually creating genuine military plans to implement the Treaty’s Article V pledge if it ever needed to. The fact that after the first rounds of expansion this was never properly done struck me as irresponsible, though not much more so than expansion itself, which I (and of course many others) opposed. If we’re going to have a military alliance, and an expanded one at that, we have to be serious about it, because that ultimately affects the politics of the thing (a subject I want to come back to later), as well as the security dimension per se. My own view is that it would have been simpler and faster to get a real renewal of a tighter and better Strategic Concept had prior administrations been serious about giving military teeth to expansion. In other words, making expansion militarily real would have driven a new Concept—as well as healthier budgets all around, I think. I blame both the Clinton and Bush 43 Administrations for failing in this regard, so the fault is politically ecumenical. I credit the Obama Administration for that, more than for the Strategic Concept itself. And finally, since you raise it, I think the mission in Libya was a mistake despite its operational merits, just as I thought many years ago that dragging the allies into Afghanistan was a mistake—because it’s a very hard place in which to win anything sustainable. Many U.S. officials with whom I have spoken have privately argued that, impending Benghazi massacre or not, we “did” Libya as a quid pro quo for the allies sticking it out with us in the ISAF in Afghanistan. Maybe that’s so, but to me the notion that one bad judgment should sire another bad judgment is not a sign of healthy strategic logic. I think the counterproductivity of the Libyan adventure is already very clear in Libya proper, in Mali, in northern Nigeria and throughout the Sahel all the way up to Algeria—and more so than it might have been, since there was no “Phase IV” planning for the aftermath of Qaddafi’s fall. (And this from an Administration that harped on a similar, earlier failure in Iraq.) I know you disagree; you almost have to. So let’s hear why. Ivo Daalder: There’s a lot of good stuff to discuss here. Let me comment on your first point first, because it’s a core issue. On whether there is a real consensus on NATO’s role, let me say this: NATO is an Alliance of 28 democracies. There isn’t complete agreement on much within any of these countries, let alone among them. On any given day, nations will see different reasons for supporting NATO, contributing to its capabilities, and deciding to participate in its operations. There is fundamental agreement on two things, however. First, NATO remains the only forum in which the Transatlantic partners can and do meet to discuss security issues of common concern. Europeans value it because of the U.S. presence. Americans and Canadians value it because, as members, they have a direct say in what happens on the old Continent. No other organization offers these benefits to its members. The OSCE has a different mandate and a membership that includes states with very different perspectives than the 28 NATO Allies. The EU lacks us—U period, S period, the United States of America. NATO has all of it: limited mandates and like-minded members on both sides of the Atlantic Second, the 28 are much better off. Their security is better served by banding together than by going it alone (or in smaller groups). None of the members is willing to risk the unity of the Alliance for parochial interests; all are willing to sacrifice in order to ensure unity. This is true even to the point of military action. Greece opposed the Kosovo operation in 1999, and even closed its ports to NATO reinforcements, but it didn’t veto NATO’s operation (which it could have), instead allowing the other 18 Allies to proceed. In 2011, Germany abstained in the United Nations on the Libya operation but then stated clearly that it would join the consensus and not stand in the way of NATO’s taking on the Libya operation. And it followed through on this statement. While German crews were not allowed to serve aboard NATO AWACS aircraft in support of the operation, German crews took over the AWACS operations over Afghanistan to free up non-German crews for Libya. Berlin contributed its share of common funding to the operation, and its officers continued to serve in the command structure. So even when there are differences of substance, the value of NATO is affirmed in the very manner in which countries disagree. The long-term interest in maintaining NATO outweighs the short-term cost of disagreement—which is true for every member. Third, as an Alliance of 28 democracies, NATO isn’t—can’t be—just one thing or another. It is many things at the same time. While some allies want an alliance that defends territory against traditional threats, others want a NATO that has expeditionary capabilities to address security challenges far from home. The new Strategic Concept recognizes that. It underscores that NATO’s tasks are multiple—including collective defense (against both traditional threats, and newer threats like missiles and cyber attack), crisis management (including deploying forces to prevent escalation or provide time for security to be established indigenously), and cooperative security (by promoting arms control and constructing partnerships with countries around the world). Together, these tasks fulfill the needs and desires of all members, even if not every member places equal emphasis on all of these tasks. But together, these core tasks constitute the basic reason for NATO to continue existing in the present century, and explains why the Alliance persists—thrives, actually—at a time when realist theory would have long predicted its demise. Finally, the contingency planning the Obama Administration has done, and to which you point, is not a matter of public record, so there isn’t much I can say about it, except this: Soon after coming to office in January 2009, President Obama indicated that in a military alliance such as NATO there should be a wide range of contingency plans, including plans for defense of all member states’ territory. We’ve made sure during the past four years that all contingency planning is up to date and meets the standards set by the President. Adam Garfinkle: An elegant response, Mr. Ambassador, which shows you remain in top form. The old witticism about diplomats—that they think twice about saying nothing—clearly doesn’t apply to you. You have expressed a key truth about an alliance of democracies. I do want to press you some, however, on the NATO concept. If the alliance remains at all a military pact devoted to European security itself, aside from expeditionary operations, then it begs the question of how an Article V alliance can be an open alliance? And here I want to raise again the matter of expansion: How can an Article V alliance be essentially non-judgmental with regard to the assets and liabilities new members bring? What would Montenegro bring to NATO as a European security-military alliance? I don’t see any benefits, and I see several kinds of liability. Ivo Daalder: Article V—that an attack against one is an attack against all—remains at the very core of the North Atlantic Alliance, and we spent the past four years making sure that NATO can fulfill this commitment against all types of threats. This includes ensuring the Alliance has the contingency plans for defending all of its territory, conducts the exercises necessary to ensure it can respond in a timely and effective manner to security threats to its territory, and acquires the capabilities necessary for the defense of its territory. In the past few years, NATO conducted the first Article V command post exercise in more than a decade, and this November the Alliance will have a live-fire exercise (“Steadfast Jazz”) based on an Article V scenario. As for capabilities, NATO’s agreement in November 2010 to make territorial missile defense a key mission of the Alliance, and the US commitment to deploy the European phased adaptive approach, as well as the decision to bolster NATO cyber defenses, demonstrate that the Alliance is ensuring that it can fulfill its territorial defense tasks against old and new threats alike. New members can contribute to this Article V effort in a number of ways. Most importantly, since the end of the Cold War the very prospect of membership has had a salutary effect on resolving conflicts within and between prospective member states. By fostering peace and stability, enlargement contributes directly to creating a climate in which the threat to Alliance territory is reduced. Enlargement has also encouraged the democratic and peaceful transformation of Central and East European societies. In fact, the past two decades have witnessed the largest and most significant regime changes the world has ever seen—and NATO and EU enlargement played major, positive roles in these efforts. Despite much progress, the effort to create a Europe that is peaceful, united and democratic is not yet completed—which is why it is important that the door to NATO remains open to all states that wish to join and meet the criteria for membership. Adam Garfinkle: Let me now pose a question that gets to the political climate, or context, to which you have just referred. The United States deployed considerably more troops in Europe when you began your tenure in Brussels than it did when you ended it. I think that a shift in the American overseas basing footprint was long overdue, and I am sure you are aware of several studies collecting dust in the Pentagon that recommended such a shift long before the political will and leadership existed to actually do it. And I don’t think that our capacity to make good on our Article V pledge is significantly undermined by this shift–maybe ten or 15 years from now, if Russian military modernization programs actually occur, we might need to revisit these levels for strictly military purposes. But that’s not my current concern. My concern is political: Is there some number of U.S. forces and platforms below which we should not go for purposes of mobilizing NATO for expeditionary (and other) purposes? In other words, if we are not perceived by European publics and political elites as having enough skin, or uniforms, actually in Europe, does that change the politics within Europe of mobilizing the alliance to act? And if so, do you think that we’re near that political, perceptual minimum now? Ivo Daalder: It’s a good question, and you’re right to stress the essential political nature of the issue. What matters for NATO is the continued need on the part of our European allies to be reassured of America’s fundamental commitment to their security. During the Cold War, such reassurance not only required a great number of U.S. divisions along the Iron Curtain, but also large numbers of nuclear weapons. Since the end of the Cold War, the requirements for reassurance have eased, though many of the new Central and East European allies still place great stock on a significant U.S. military presence. The reduction in U.S. forces deployed on the continent, though significant, has not had a negative impact on European perceptions—not least because the Obama Administration has been firm about its commitment to NATO, to Article V and to collective defense. So long as that commitment remains strong, additional reductions in the U.S. troop presence should be feasible if deemed necessary. Is there a minimum below which we can’t go? You’ll remember Marshall Foch who, when asked by his British counterpart how many troops he needed to help defend France prior to World War I, replied: “Just one, so long as he is the first casualty of the war.” Our European friends will likely need more U.S. troops to be reassured, but Foch’s point stands. It’s our overall commitment to the Alliance, to Europe’s security, and to the security partnership with Europe that matters, not which or how many forces are deployed where. And that’s true for conventional military forces as well as for nuclear weapons. Adam Garfinkle: So much for NATO’s political and military structure writ large. Now let’s talk about some plumbing issues. The role of U.S. Ambassador to NATO is unconventional in many ways. Having talked with a few of your predecessors over the years, I gather that the number of offices and actors the Ambassador must deal with is larger and more diverse than the burden of a typical Ambassador to a single country. The NATO Ambassador, almost by definition, has to work more closely with the SACEUR and military leaders from other countries than most American Ambassadors (except maybe during wartime). He has many counterparts in the foreign ministry positions, not just one. He also has to liaise with the EU apparatus as a matter of course, especially being in Brussels. And there is the usual interagency challenge of coordinating with the White House as well as State, Defense and the intelligence community. Some past NATO Ambassadors have expressed a certain frustration with having to manage all these moving parts. Frictions seem to be inevitable and pretty much built into the context of the job. So from a management/bureaucratic point of view, how would assess your experience. And in particular, do you have any suggestions for how current arrangements might be improved? Ivo Daalder: All Ambassadors fulfill two essential functions. First, and most importantly, they represent the United States in their host country. Second, they are a source of knowledge about, and an advocate for, their host countries back in Washington. In the case of the U.S. NATO Ambassador, this dual function is more extensive and complex than it is for bilateral Ambassadors in at least two ways. First, because NATO is an organization of 28 states, and because the United States is the leading member of the Alliance, the U.S. Ambassador not only represents the United States in NATO but at least indirectly also in the other 27 member states, at least as far as defense and security policy goes. The complication arises not only because there are so many members, but as an Alliance that operates on the basis of consensus, a vital U.S. role is to work with other countries—in Brussels, but also in capitals—to forge consensus in a way that serves U.S. interests. The second way in which the U.S. Ambassador’s role is more complex than that of bilateral Ambassadors lies in the fact that, unique among the 200-plus American Ambassadors, the U.S. Permanent Representative to NATO is the only one to report not only to the Secretary of State but also to the Secretary of Defense. The U.S. Mission to NATO accordingly has more Defense Department personnel on staff than Foreign Service officers. Indeed, two-thirds of the mission’s budget comes from the Pentagon. As your question makes clear, navigating these shoals can be complicated and requires a good deal of bureaucratic acumen. In my case, I was immeasurably helped by colleagues at State and Defense, as well as the White House, who worked closely together—in Washington, in Brussels and in capitals—to advance America’s interests in and through NATO. That said, the job of Ambassador could be eased if the lines of authority in Brussels—and between Brussels and Washington—were clearer. Most importantly, the existing division of authority—in which the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the President (through the Secretaries of State and Defense) have separate representatives in Brussels—could usefully be ended, with the Ambassador put in charge of all personnel assigned to NATO in Brussels, including the military delegation to NATO. The UK has adopted this model, and many other allies are moving in this direction as well. It works for them; it would work for us as well. Adam Garfinkle: Sequestration, Ivo: Let’s talk about the impact of sequestration on how Europeans see U.S. power, and, just as important if not more so, how they see the vitality of our political system. Has sequestration affected the robustness of our exercises with our allies, for example? I suspect it has already and will do so further in future. And how has the whole business affected allied perceptions of our competence as an alliance leader? Ivo Daalder: Adam, there’s no denying that sequestration has had an immediate, negative impact on our security engagement in Europe on multiple levels. In terms of people, a large number of U.S. civilians working in Europe for the Department of Defense have been furloughed. This includes close to 50 percent of the staff members of the U.S. Mission to NATO. Not only does furloughing affect people directly; it affects the morale of the entire unit, especially when some government employees are furloughed (because they are Defense Department civilians) and others working for different parts of the government are not. My recommendation: If we furlough one set of civil servants, let’s at least spread out that burden and furlough all parts of the government—whether DOD civilians, foreign service officers, or air traffic controllers. Aside from hitting people, sequestration is felt most directly in our training and exercises, which are bearing the brunt of the Defense Department spending cuts. The United States has had to scale back on some exercises and to defer others. The impact is real. Planning for many of these exercises has been in the works for months and years, sometimes at significant cost, and much of that planning is now for naught. Equally important, as the operational involvement of allied forces has been reduced as a result of the ongoing drawdown of troops in Afghanistan and other operations, the importance of conducting training and exercises as means of retaining their operational edge has gone up. Indeed, NATO has launched a new initiative, the connected forces initiative, designed to enhance the interoperability of our forces through increased training and exercises. Our commitment to participate in these efforts is absolutely vital to the success of the initiative—a commitment that is now being called in question by the forced cuts imposed by sequestration. One final negative effect is worth mentioning. Two years ago, we announced that the U.S. troop presence in Europe would be reduced, with two combat brigades being disbanded in the coming years. A key part of that decision included a commitment to reinvigorate our training and exercise program in Europe, including by rotating a battalion or more into Europe to support these efforts on a regular basis. So far, that commitment remains, but as further cuts become necessary because of sequestration, it becomes that much easier to decide to forego a rotation, and then another, and another, pretty soon ending the idea altogether. Adam Garfinkle: That’s a depressing but straightforward and honest answer. Thank you for it. Speaking of depressing, you are doubtless aware that the bloom surrounding President Obama’s political ascent has worn off in Europe to a considerable degree. The mid-June trip showed some of that, but the change has been a long time in the making and has several sources, it seems to me. Above all, West European publics and media generally took a very unrealistic view of the President’s political disposition and what he represented culturally from the very start, so they were bound to be disappointed by the bursting of their own illusions. They adopted a celebrity prism to see into a political personality—always a bad idea. It’s also been true from the start, I believe, that the President had no special warmth for Europe or NATO. He spoke disparagingly about old alliance formations that had outlived their purpose, and it was fairly widely remarked—whether true or not I will leave to you to parse—that while the President went early to Copenhagen to shill for Chicago’s Olympics bid, he couldn’t be bothered to go to Berlin for the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Wall. Then there was the missile defense stuff—no so much what was done but how it was done—and the “optic” it created in the context of the U.S.-Russia “reset.” Then the sharp drawdown of U.S. forces, frustrations over closing Guantanamo, the so-called Asia pivot and, most recently, the NSA snooping debacle. Whether you judge these perceptions to be fair or accurate or not, they are what they are. So, anyway, it seems to me. Nowhere has this overall sense of European depression been deeper than in Poland. I was there not that long ago and spoke to lots of Poles. The impression I got from them was pretty uniform: They all accused the Administration of screwing up relations with Poland, from the symbolic to the concrete and everything in between. How much of your time did you have to spend backfilling the ever-widening perceptual gap in Europe as a whole, and in particular holding hands on behalf of the U.S.-Polish relationship? Ivo Daalder: I think you’re right to say that there were unrealistic expectations among many Europeans about what the election of Barack Obama would mean for Transatlantic relations. But I don’t agree that the bloom has worn off much. And while you can find people in every country who are disappointed and may feel the relationship has not matched expectations, or even that it has deteriorated over the past four years, I think U.S.-European relations remain in very good form, and are seen as such by all our allied governments, including Poland. Your question contains a lot of specific points that would take an essay to answer and, in part, rebut. But let me take on two of the key issues: one, that the President ignored Europe and isn’t much of an Atlanticist, and, second, that his decision on missile defense in September 2009 was somehow a sign of U.S. abandonment of Europe. Both assertions are completely unfounded. While often stated as a matter of fact, it’s just wrong to argue that the Obama Administration has ignored Europe. In his first year in office, President Obama traveled to Europe five times, more than any other President in his first year in office. He also attended three NATO summits in three years. Secretary Clinton traveled 36 times to Europe, visiting thirty countries—more trips than to any other continent. Secretary Kerry has continued that engagement, using his first foreign trip to visit London, Paris, Berlin, Rome and Ankara, and to meet with all his NATO and EU counterparts over dinner. During my four years in Brussels, I didn’t hear much about American abandonment of Europe or fears of an American retreat from world affairs. America’s re-engagement with Europe following Obama’s election was both real and widely welcomed by our Allies. And even when U.S. troop levels were set to decline and the Administration announced it was rebalancing toward Asia, government officials throughout Europe understood that these were necessary adjustments that in no way signified that the United States was turning its back to the old continent. On the contrary, as President Obama never tires of saying, we continue to see our alliance with Europe as the “cornerstone of our engagement with the world.” The administration’s decision on European missile defense remains the bug-a-boo of much commentary on the supposed abandonment of Europe by the Obama Administration—as your question underscores. But let’s get the facts straight. The Bush Administration had proposed to deploy ten—yes, ten—interceptors in Poland and one radar in the Czech Republic. Their stated purpose was to defend the United States against a potential Iranian ICBM threat. In other words, the so-called “third site” was designed to defend America in Europe. It had little if any capability of defending Europe against the growing regional ballistic missile threat. And as a bilateral program with two Allied countries, it offered the other 25 European Allies nothing. That’s the system the Obama Administration abandoned. In its stead, the Administration proposed the European Phased Adaptive Approach as an integral part of a new NATO Mission for territorial defense of NATO Europe. In other words, we proposed—and secured NATO approval of—a missile defense system to be deployed in Europe for the defense of Europe. Its command and control is in the hands of NATO commanders, and the command system itself is funded by all 28 NATO allies. Elements of the U.S. national contribution will be deployed in Turkey, Romania, Poland, Germany and Spain, and other allies will make their own national contributions to the overall defense system. Deployment of the system has already started, with the first phase completed in 2011 (with the deployment of a radar in Turkey and Aegis cruisers in the eastern Mediterranean). The second phase will be completed in 2015 with the deployment of interceptors in Romania and home-porting of four U.S. Aegis cruisers in Spain. The final phase, which will be able to provide defense of all NATO European territory, is on track to be completed in 2018. I have gone into some detail here just to underscore that the idea of the Obama Administration’s abandoning Europe because of the cancellation of the third site is a myth. It has no basis in reality. Nor does anyone in Europe believe that it does—and that includes the very highest levels of the Polish government. Adam Garfinkle: Obviously, a lot of your time over the past four years concerned Afghanistan. That’s where the alliance has been engaged militarily, and largely as a consequence, that is where a lot of the subtle pushing and shoving took place between the United States and its European allies, and maybe even more so among the European allies. Now, let me tell you frankly that I do not think the effort in Afghanistan is going to end well. Our own Special Forces community guys are pretty clear on what will happen: Once we leave, the Karzai regime, or anything like it as it exists today, is unlikely to persist for even 24 months. The Tajik-dominated government will control Kabul, the Salang Tunnel and environs (hopefully), and the Panshir Valley, of course. The Uzbek areas around Mazar-i-Sharif will be dominated by an Uzbek warlord, and the Pashtun parts of the country will return to warlordism as well. Ismail Khan will return to Herat, Gulbeddin Hekmatyar will get to shell Kabul again for the third time in his career, and so on. There will be no Taliban 2.0 regime in control of the whole country, which is good, but the outcome won’t conform to anyone’s idea of a political success for NATO. As I mentioned earlier, I was opposed to our pulling the allies into Afghanistan in the first place. I don’t think alliances benefit from lack of success, and Afghanistan as a state-building project had failure written all over it as far as I was concerned. That said, I think it is beyond argument that the degree of cooperation among all the allies in ISAF has been very impressive. One can argue that some of the arrangements have harmed combat and reconstruction efficiency, but there’s no denying that, as an organization, NATO performed very well despite the inevitable bumps and bruises here and there. So I am puzzled by how the campaign will affect the alliance overall in the future. What will take pride of place? The fact that, as hard as we tried, we did not succeed, or the fact that the alliance worked under very difficult circumstances and cohered all the same? Assuming you can grant my premise about the outcome in Afghanistan, if only for the sake of discussion, how do you think the experience will net out? Ivo Daalder: Afghanistan topped the NATO agenda for the entire time I was Ambassador, and for good reason. Even today, nearly 100,000 troops from all 28 NATO countries as well as nearly two dozen partner nations remain deployed in Afghanistan, every one of them under NATO command. Afghanistan has seen the largest deployment of NATO forces—and the largest coalition of forces—in history. That is why Afghanistan remains the number one priority of the Alliance, and it will remain such at least until the ISAF mission ends on December 31, 2014. I don’t accept the idea that NATO’s Afghan mission is doomed to failure. For one, the mission is still ongoing—there are another 17 months to go. And once the ISAF mission ends, NATO has committed to launching a new mission to train, advise and assist Afghan forces to ensure that the essential goal of an Afghanistan free of terrorist safe havens is secured. This summer, Afghan forces took lead responsibility for security throughout their country, and NATO’s mission shifted from a focus on combat to an emphasis on supporting Afghan security forces. There is widespread agreement that Afghan forces are doing well in this task—and that they will be able to take full responsibility for security of the country by the end of next year. Thereafter, NATO will continue to support the effort—financially, by having pledged to contribute more than $4 billion to sustain the forces, and militarily, through an intensive training and advisory program. It is important to give the Afghan forces a chance to succeed; indeed, the past four years have all been about establishing the right conditions for this success. It is much too soon, and much too defeatist, to conclude now that this effort has been and will be for naught. The Afghanistan experience has been salutary for NATO in a number of important respects. For many Allies, the mission represented the first real operational experience they have had. As a result, the combat experience and operational capability of NATO forces today is much greater and more effective than it was a decade ago. In addition, the operation has bolstered the ties between NATO and important partner nations—countries like Australia, New Zealand, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Sweden and Finland. Though not members of NATO, these partner nations have come to appreciate the Alliance’s value and have created close and lasting links to NATO from which all will benefit in the future. Finally, the Afghan experience has drawn NATO into the wider global effort to bolster international security. This NATO-led operation, which at its height involved more than 150,000 troops from fifty countries, was conducted some 5,500 kilometers from Alliance headquarters in Brussels. And despite constant fears that the Alliance would founder and the coalition would disintegrate, allies and partners alike have stuck with the effort—at great cost and sacrifice by all. This, I suggest, is testament to the strength, vitality and continued utility of this military alliance. ADAM GARFINKLE: Thank you, Mr. Ambassador, for an enlightening and in-depth analysis. I’m sorry for all the subjects we didn’t discuss: We didn’t get back to Libya, we didn’t mention the critically important economic dimension of the Transatlantic relationship and important new initiatives in that area, and we can both think of a dozen other topics we didn’t get to in what is a capacious relationship. But I think we agree in the main, though not in every detail, about what we have discussed, all of them critical issues for the United States and its oldest and still most important allies.
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Published on: August 15, 2013Exit Interview