SHAPE NEWS SUMMARY & ANALYSIS 12 MARCH 2002
NOTE: Due to PIOs participation in Exercise "Strong Resolve 2002," the SHAPE News Morning Update will not be published until March 16. Significant news items are incorporated in the SHAPE News Summary and Analysis.
A400M MILITARY TRANSPORT PLANE
- Le Soir and La Libre Belgique quote Defense Minister Flahaut saying in Pristina Monday that he plans to take the opportunity of a planned KFOR restructuring in the fall to reduce the Belgian contingent. "We have decided to maintain our soldiers but with a reduction in numbers," Le Soir quotes Flahaut saying, during a visit to Pristina to mark the 10th anniversary of the Belgian Armys presence in the Balkans. "The present climate of security in Kosovo is leading senior NATO officials to look at ways of reducing KFOR. Flahaut welcomes the news," adds the newspaper. It notes that explaining how the cuts would be achieved, Flahaut said he would first reduce from 105 to 15 the soldiers based in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to monitor the supply routes to Leposavic in Northern Kosovo, where Belgian troops are based. Instead, trucks would pass through Serbia, he reportedly said, adding that he would discuss the issue later in the day during a meeting in Belgrade with President Kostunica. The newspaper further quotes Flahaut saying that some 100 Bulgarian soldiers could join the Belgians, permitting the repatriation of an equivalent amount of Belgian soldiers. The Belgian government would pay for the costs of board and lodging for Bulgarians seeking to gain NATO and European experience. In that case the total numbers would remain unchanged. The article adds that "this exchange of friendly services is announced for the fall."
- The Stars and Stripes reports that at a news conference with NATO Secretary General Robertson in Brussels Monday, the head of the UN mission in Kosovo, Michael Steiner, stressed that any troop reduction in the NATO-led mission in Kosovo should be gradual and not abrupt. While the Alliance seeks to reduce some of its forces in the Balkans, there should be no reduction in NATOs commitment in Kosovo. It is of the utmost importance to finish the business we started," he reportedly stressed. According to the newspaper, Lord Robertson said there would be no reduction in NATOs commitment to the province, but added that under the current six-month review of troops in Kosovo, the Alliance could reduce troops to fit the mission. "The review is ongoing," he reportedly said. According to the article, he declined to give any concrete troop reduction numbers.
- According to AFP, NATO Secretary General Robertson said in Brussels Monday that NATO has no objection in principle to the EU taking on the lead role in peacekeeping operations in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. He said, however, that any transfer of the leadership of the Amber Fox mission from NATO to the EU would only take place in the second half of the year. "The possibility of the EU taking over the operation is from the autumn. There is plenty of time to look at the practicalities," he told reporters after talks with Prime Minister Georgievski, adding: "But the key criterium is whether or not the job can be done effectively and efficiently. The first important point is whether or not the Macedonians (sic) want a further period of the force there. There is no objection in principle."
- Reuters reports that dozens of former ethnic Albanian rebels walked free from jail Monday under a landmark amnesty designed to seal the peace process.
- Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung , March 9, devoted a full page to the participation of NATO AWACS in the surveillance of the U.S. airspace in the framework of Operation Eagle Assist. From Tinker air force base, and under the title, "Guardian Angels," the newspaper carried an anecdotic article describing activities aboard NATO AWACS 27, as it watched the airspace over Washington.
Media report prominently on President Bushs appeal Monday for unflagging commitment in the war on terrorism. Most note that in a speech marking the six-month commemoration of the terrorist attacks in the United States, Bush made clear that now that U.S.-led forces had removed the Taliban government in Afghanistan, he would carry the fight into other nations to deny terrorist networks any safe haven. Commentators generally see the remark as the announcement that the countdown for the second phase of the war against terrorism had started.
The BBC carried its World Affairs correspondent observing that the link between terrorism and states with weapons of mass destructionchemical, biological and nuclearwas at the heart of Bushs speech. The correspondent claimed that it is the justification Washington and whatever allies it can get will use if they decide to act against Iraq. And, the correspondent added, "it seeks to mend a hole in the U.S. argument. This is that there is no evidence linking Iraq to Al Qaeda and Sept. 11. Now no evidence is apparently needed."
The Washington Post notes that Bushs speech reiterated the twin goals of confronting Al Qaeda wherever it operates, and changing an unacceptable international status quo that allows Iraq and other rogue states to pursue weapons of mass destruction. The newspaper adds that Bush now faces the challenge of launching and leading a new phase of the war, one that will encompass smaller conflicts in places such as the Philippines, Yemen and Georgia, and possibly much bigger ones with his "axis of evil." Success in the next phase also will depend heavily on the cooperation of U.S. allies in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, and for now at least, many of those nations are not on board, the article remarks.
A400M MILITARY TRANSPORT PLANE
- The development and acquisition of A400M transport planes for Germanys armed forces is in danger again , writes Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Noting that the governments plan to take part in the project will be presented to the Budget Committee of the German Parliament for a decision this week, the article adds that the three budget committee members from Alliance 90/The Greens Party announced Monday that they would oppose it. The parliamentary committee will vote on Wednesday on 5.1 billion in funding. If, however, a decision for further funding of 3.5 billion is rejected later on, Germany would become liable and unable to place orders with its partners for anywhere near as many as the agreed 73 planes, the article stresses. A related article in the Financial Times stresses that a rejection from the three Greens at the meeting would deprive the government of its committee majority and could trigger a crisis in Chancellor Schroeders coalition.
- According to Der Spiegel, March 11, the controversial fleet of new Airbus military transport aircraft of the Bundeswehr is only suited to a limited extent for risky missions as in Afghanistan. As shown in an appendix to a confidential procurement draft for the Budget Committee, only one-third of the aircraft24 out of 73are to get protective equipment, said the article. It added that this consists of equipment that warns against radar detection and hostile missiles, as well as a computer-controlled system that launches decoy missiles to divert the missiles and to destroy the air defense radars. The article claimed that in Afghanistan, only Transall transport aircraft of the German air force and Hercules aircraft of allied nations that have this equipment are currently being used because of possible missile attacks by dispersed Taliban fighters.
- According to Reuters, scientists warned Tuesday that soldiers exposed to high levels of depleted uranium may suffer kidney damage and it could pose a danger to civilians through contaminated soil or water supplies. A report by Britains Royal Society reportedly said, however, that only a small number of soldiers would have inhaled large enough amounts of DU to seriously damage their health and preventive measures could limit any danger to civilians. It added that most veterans of the Gulf War or Balkans conflicts were unlikely to suffer from heavy metal poisoning.
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