April 8, 2008
The Role of NATO in Afghanistan
General John Craddock
NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander, Europe Chairman
Catherine S. Swift,
President, The Empire Club of Canada
Head Table Guests:
Bart J. Mindszenthy: APR, FCPRS, Partner, Mindszenthy & Roberts Corp., and Past President, The Empire Club of Canada
Melanie Harding: Grade 12 Student, North Toronto Collegiate Institute
Reverend Canon Philip Hobson: Rector, St. Martin-in-the-Fields Anglican Church
Shawn Francis: President and CEO, Medcan Health Management Inc.
Major-General Christopher Davis: CD, Director-General International Security Policy, National Defence Headquarters
Major-General (Ret’d) Reginald W. Lewis: Former Chief of Reserve Forces, and Past President, The Empire Club of Canada
Sergeant Ted Howard: Canadian Forces
The Hon. William Graham: PC, QC, Chairman, The Atlantic Council of Canada.
Introduction by Catherine Swift:
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization has a rich history, having been created in 1949 following the end of the Second World War. The purpose of NATO was to establish a system of collective defence whereby the member states agree to mutual defence in response to an attack by any external party. NATO had significant roles in such historical events as the Cuban missile crisis and the long cold war between western nations and the Soviet Union. Post-Cold War, NATO underwent a strategic re-evaluation of its purpose, which in part entailed a gradual expansion to Eastern Europe. In February 1994, NATO took its first military action during the war in Bosnia. NATO air strikes helped bring the war in Bosnia to an end, following which NATO deployed a peacekeeping force. In the late 1990s, NATO’s membership expanded to include some former communist countries. And in 1999, NATO saw its first broad-scale military engagement in the Kosovo war. The expansion of NATO’s activities grew further following the 9–11 attacks. NATO’s current focus of activity is Afghanistan, as we Canadians are well aware.
Looking at the history of NATO and its many activities over the years, it is clear that its role is expanding in importance and influence. And it is also clear that, despite some politicized debates to the contrary, its role extends very far beyond peacekeeping. We are very fortunate to have as our speaker today NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe, General John Craddock. Following graduation from West Virginia University, he completed a tour of duty with the 3rd Armoured Division in Germany followed by a tour at Fort Knox Kentucky with the U.S. Army Armour and Engineer Board. He then completed the Armour Officer Advanced Course and returned to 3rd Armoured Division as a tank company commander.
In 1989, he assumed command of the 4th Battalion 64th Armour 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized) at Fort Stewart, Georgia. During this posting he was deployed to Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Following that, he attended the U.S. Army War College, assuming command of the 194th Separate Armoured Brigade, and subsequently became Assistant Chief of Staff (Operations) for III Corps at Fort Hood, Texas.
In 1996 he moved to the Pentagon as Assistant Deputy Director for two years, and then he moved back to Germany. It was during this time that he was designated Commander U.S. Forces for the initial phase of operations in Kosovo. A tour as the Senior Military Assistant to the Secretary of Defence preceded the post of Combatant Commander U.S. Southern Command. General Craddock led the U.S. Southern Command from 2004 until 2006.
Please join me in welcoming General John Craddock.
GENERAL JOHN CRADDOCK:
Thank you very much, Catherine. You did that beautifully. I must admit, it sounds like I can’t hold a job with all those different assignments. But thank you so much. It’s great to be here, ladies and gentlemen, and thanks again for the warm welcome. It’s a pleasure to be back in North America and this is my first opportunity to speak to an audience in Toronto. This is my Canadian debut—which reminds me of a story, if I may.
Apparently, playwright George Bernard Shaw and Winston Churchill were quite good friends but also antagonists over the years. Shaw once sent a telegram to Churchill. It said, “Enclosed two tickets for opening night of my new play. Bring a friend if you have one.” Churchill wrote back, “Unable to attend opening night, will attend second performance, if you have one.”
You’ve got to admire Churchill’s wit, but I must say he said also, “You can always count on the Americans to do the right thing … after they’ve tried everything else.” That’s one of those sayings that I think makes a lot of sense but not one of my favourites.
I’m here today to talk about NATO, its operation in Afghanistan, its future and the vital role that Canada plays in the NATO alliance. Canada has a distinguished military history, sometimes shortchanged in the United States by people that dwell on the first time we shared a battlefield back in 1812.
You have a long history of selfless service. About 10 years ago the United States Army adopted selfless service as one of its codified formal army values. This country has always been in the forefront contributing more in proportion to its size than most others, and that continues today with your commitment in Afghanistan.
Selfless service is personified by the non-commissioned officer, who I will recognize in a few minutes. NATO dedicated 2008 to our non-commissioned officers, recognizing the vital role played by non-commissioned officers within the alliance. In many ways they are ambassadors for their nations, they are helping us transform the alliance and we cannot succeed without them.
So today I’m truly pleased to have the opportunity to meet and recognize Sgt. Ted Howard. Sgt. Howard is the epitome of selfless service, an outstanding Canadian soldier. He embodies the non-commissioned officer qualities we are highlighting this year throughout NATO—courage, sacrifice, initiative, performance and empowerment. Sgt. Howard is a veteran of 15 years. He recently received the prestigious Canadian Expeditionary Force Commander’s Commendation for his achievements in Afghanistan. His skills were recognized early when he worked on civil military operations, nation building and ultimately as a part of a Provincial Reconstruction Team in a quite dangerous area in Afghanistan. He was personally responsible for the successful completion of more than 180 projects, working closely with municipal officials in Kandahar City and the Director of Women’s Affairs and the Director of Amputees.
His projects included 15,000 man-days of labour and were personally recognized by President Karzai and by the foreign press. He also shared in the painful duty of helping repatriate fallen Canadian soldiers. Sgt. Howard, thank you so much for what you’ve accomplished. You are indeed an inspiration, not only to your peers, but to senior leaders across NATO and across Afghanistan. And your good work continues as you prepare, and indeed inspire, the next group of soldiers from Ontario who will follow in your footsteps in doing invaluable work in Afghanistan. I now want to present you a Commander’s Coin for your great efforts.
As we speak, more than 2,500 brave men and women from Canada, who are a vital part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), are in Afghanistan conducting a mission that’s critical, indeed critical, to global security. Yet many questions have been raised in public forums about this mission. Is our involvement the correct response? Has it been effective? What is our national interest? Is NATO failing or, as has been said recently, “Make no mistake, NATO is not winning”? These are just a few examples. I’d like to address these and other questions today as I highlight the importance of this mission and the importance of our commitment to its success.
NATO is not failing, I assure you. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are succeeding and we will continue to succeed. As NATO’s military commander of operations, I’m not in the business of justifying missions. Rather, my job is to execute as capably and effectively as possible. I would like to share a few words with you from NATO’s Secretary General in describing just what is at stake for Canada, the United States and our partner nations in the ISAF mission in Afghanistan.
First and foremost, our very own security is at stake here and in Europe, as much as Afghanistan’s security is at stake. Just as economies are increasingly interdependent in our globalized world, our external and internal security is equally interwoven. Afghanistan is a mission of necessity rather than of choice. Less than a decade ago, Afghanistan was a hotbed of terrorism. Our mission there is crucial to ensure that the nation of Afghanistan does not return to a place that terrorists, transnational terrorists, call home.
Secondly, the ISAF mission has a defining effect on the evolution of our relationship with Asia. I do not wish to delve into the geopolitical realm today, but one need only to look at the borders of Afghanistan to recognize the complexity of the geopolitical situation in that region. Pakistan, Iran, China, and the Muslim Republics of the former Soviet Union are all affected by the outcome in Afghanistan. Extremism and terrorism must no longer pose a threat to stability in that region or beyond. With so much at stake, unwavering NATO support in Afghanistan remains essential.
Just last week at the summit in Bucharest, the heads of state and government of the 26 NATO nations and its partners reaffirmed a dedication to the mission in Afghanistan, citing a firm and shared long-term commitment toward helping the Afghan people. Every time I go to Afghanistan, and I’ve gone about once a month for the last 15 months, I see progress. Indeed, uneven progress, not as fast or as far-reaching as we’d like, but there is progress.
NATO’s mission is to conduct military operations to assist the government of Afghanistan and the establishment in the maintenance of a safe and secure environment with full engagement of the Afghan National Security Forces. Due to the success of high operational tempo and focused intelligence-led operations by the Afghan National Army and by the International Security Assistance Force, the opposing militant forces—we call them the OMF—have adopted terrorist tactics such as roadside bombing attacks and attacks against civilian targets. The death of Private Street last week is an example of their absolutely indiscriminate but calculated attacks designed to strike at the resolve of not only the Afghan people but of those committed to progress in Afghanistan.
While this activity has served to affect Afghan and international public opinion, these tactics do not allow OMF expansion on the ground nor do they undermine our commitment. Through a series of tactical victories, ISAF has geographically constrained the OMF forces’ ability to conduct sustained activity. Seventy per cent of the security incidents last year, 2007, occurred in only 10 per cent—that’s 40, four zero—of the 396 districts in Afghanistan. These districts are home to only 6 per cent of the Afghan population. So far this year, 2008, 91 per cent of the insurgent activity has been reported in just 8 per cent of the districts, and these districts are almost exclusively in the South and the East.
NATO is working to help the Afghan government develop its forces so it can ultimately provide for its own security without outside assistance. The Afghan National Army, ANA, continues to grow in size and capability and now exceeds the size of ISAF. Since May 2007, the Afghan Army has fielded nine infantry battalions, four commando battalions, six support battalions, three brigade headquarters and three aviation units. It now plays a leadership role in 25 per cent of all military operations in Afghanistan, and in the most hotly-contested regions, the Afghan National Army participates in more than 90 per cent of all ISAF operations. And also of note, today 90 per cent of the Afghan people, the Afghan public, see the ANA as an honest and fair institution, and 89 per cent say it definitely helps promote and improve security.
Conversely, the Afghan National Police Force, which has grown quickly in numbers, continues to lag significantly behind the Afghan National Army in professional ability. Police performance needs to urgently be enhanced. Recent pay and structural reforms will indeed help, but corruption, criminality, and a lack of qualified leadership remain the most pressing issues.
NATO recognizes that a military solution alone does not suffice to secure and stabilize the country. Security, governance and reconstruction and development activities must complement and support each other. In the area of reconstruction and development, it is clear the Afghans are experiencing progress. To date, more than 7,500 civil military co-operation projects have been launched across Afghanistan, 75 per cent of which are now complete. Real GDP growth is expected to exceed 13 per cent in the fiscal year ending March 2008. The education of Afghanistan’s children continues to move forward in most regions. Enrolment now exceeds six million students, including more female students than ever before. In 2001, 8 per cent of the Afghans had access to some form of health care. Today that number exceeds 80 per cent. Child mortality rates have been reduced by 25 per cent since 2001, and 16 million vaccinations against childhood diseases have been administered in the last five years.
Through the continued support and vital contributions made by Canada and the other 39 nations that make up ISAF and by soldiers like Sgt. Howard, NATO is making a difference in Afghanistan. However, we can and must do more.
So how do we do that? Well, to start with, we, NATO, have yet to completely fill up the agreed statement of requirements of forces for Afghanistan. We’re still short key capabilities and enablers such as intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities, communications, engineering, and air support. The fact is each nation has its own internal issues and they must address those issues. But a completely resourced force sends a clear message to our adversary and to the Afghan people that NATO is committed to achieving success.
Our continued inability to fill these stated requirements creates and sustains a gap between what is required and what is present in the theatre. I maintain that it is this gap that enables the OMF to operate in Afghanistan, and whether we speak of Afghanistan or yet-to-be-named operations in the future by other NATO forces, the enemy will always operate in the space created by what we need and what we have.
Additionally, more than 80 national caveats restricting the use of NATO forces limit the flexible employment of those formations. Caveats, like the shortfalls, increase the risk to every soldier, sailor, airman and marine in Afghanistan. The fact is NATO forces are exceptional but they need as much flexibility as possible to be effective on this asymmetric irregular battlefield.
In addition to NATO members and partners, the international community as a whole must increase development efforts. Through a comprehensive approach, an approach that integrates the efforts of all parties, civilian and military, we can and we will achieve success. NATO’s military will set the conditions to allow the government of Afghanistan to provide infrastructure leading to investment and job creation. The jobs are needed to drive a wedge between the insurgents and the day fighters who are merely there with the Taliban because they have no employment, no other means to earn a wage to put food on the table for their children.
Everything we do must be seen in the context of how it helps the government of Afghanistan achieve its good governance mandate. We must work closely with the government of Afghanistan at all levels to reduce corruption and enable it to convince its citizens that government can be a positive factor in their lives.
Despite the negative sentiment that’s dominated the airwaves and the editorial pages in recent months, I remain firm in my conviction that our efforts, NATO’s efforts in Afghanistan, are making a difference. We are succeeding, we are making the lives of the vast majority of Afghans better and we are creating conditions for a better future.
As I peruse the headlines, often in the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star and other papers, I know the mission in Afghanistan is in the forefront of the minds of the citizens of Canada. Her sons and daughters are indeed paying a price for our security. As you well know, some 82 of Canada’s soldiers have given their lives in the name of freedom—freedom from the fear of terrorism and freedom for the people of Afghanistan.
The NATO summit in Bucharest is now history, a thing of the past. Our heads of state and government published a strategic vision to guide our engagement, pledging to support each other in sharing the burden, to provide our military commanders the tools they need for success by filling the remaining shortfalls and forces, and to provide maximum flexibility in the use of our forces. As the commander of NATO operations, I’m encouraged by this stated commitment and I look forward to seeing it fulfilled.
So where does our alliance go from here? Standing a mere 100 kilometres from the hometown of one of Canada’s national heroes, I’d like to borrow a line from “The Great One,” Wayne Gretzky. “A good hockey player plays where the puck is, a great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.” The 60,000 deployed NATO military forces on three continents are a visible and effective demonstration of NATO’s resolve to collectively meet global security challenges. As NATO continues its transformation toward an agile flexible force capable of rapid reaction in times of crisis, we in NATO must be ready to skate to where the puck is going to be or even to follow the puck into the corner if need be.
I rest assured, knowing that Canada along with its 25 partners that make up the alliance will continue to provide the unwavering commitment demanded by our current security environment. In February, your Prime Minister told the Conference of Defense Associations that: “Countries that cannot or will not make a real contribution to global security are not regarded as serious players. They may be liked by everybody, they may be pleasantly acknowledged by everybody, but when the hard decisions get made they will be ignored by everybody. That’s not what Canadians want. They want to make a positive difference in a dangerous world. They want us to lead.”
And I can assure you that Canada is one of the most admired and respected nations in the alliance. Their continued and steadfast commitment to NATO has served as a pillar of strength for nearly 60 years. Thank you for the sacrifices you’ve made in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the name of freedom and our collective spirit.
Thank you very much.
The appreciation of the meeting was expressed by Bart J. Mindszenthy, APR, FCPRS, Partner, Mindszenthy & Roberts Corp., and Past President, The Empire Club of Canada.