The NATO Council decided April 15 that the alliance shall command the 4,500-strong international stabilization forces in Afghanistan from August 2003 and later.
This was disclosed at a briefing by a NATO spokesperson, who tried to downplay the importance of this event, stressing that the Afghan peace-keeping operation's mandate remained unchanged, that this operation was still being conducted under UN auspices and under the command of volunteer-countries. Western peace-keepers serving in Afghanistan won't show the NATO flag; nor will there be any NATO emblems on their uniforms. NATO undertakes to provide the required infrastructure alone.
In real life, though, NATO will be supervising an operation far outside its traditional zone of responsibility for the first time ever. This decision was made at a time when the present-day Kabul government, which had replaced the Taliban, is being trusted by fewer Afghans; moreover, pro-Talib forces are becoming more active.
Headquarters being allotted by different countries, members of international stabilization forces, were previously rotated every six months. Right now, such forces will be controlled by the high command of joint NATO forces in Northern Europe. Meanwhile the Afghan operation's coordinating divisions will be located at NATO's European strategic HQ in Mons, Belgium.
The NATO spokesman, who wished to remain anonymous, also noted that such a decision was quite logical and sensible. The six-month HQ-rotation principle disorganizes the entire operation, also failing to ensure its success, he stressed. In his words, NATO will be providing more substantial logistics support, as well.
When asked about NATO's possible involvement in Iraq's post-war stabilization, the spokesman reminded that Washington had submitted this proposal to the UN Security Council already in December 2002. This possibility is still being discussed, he said in conclusion.