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Updated: 07-Jan-2004

SHAPE News Summary & Analysis

7 January 2004

  • Taliban sorry for “mistake” that killed 16 Afghans, says target was PRT


  • French Foreign Minister: Europe can boost defense cooperation without sidelining NATO


  • Second round of talks on EUCOM’s transformation plans to begin soon


  • According to Reuters, Afghanistan’s ousted Taliban apologized Wednesday for a bomb attack in the southern city of Kandahar that killed 16 people, including many children, and called it a botched attempt to target US. troops. “We wanted to target the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) office in the city, but because of a small mistake, this plan failed,” a senior Taliban commander reportedly told the news agency by satellite telephone. The dispatch observes that the PRT in Kandahar is under U.S. command.

Several media focus on a ceremony in Kunduz Tuesday, in which ISAF took over control of a Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT). They generally describe the transfer of authority as the start of ISAF’s expansion outside Kabul.
The Kunduz operation, which consists of 170 German troops, is a pilot project for further ISAF expansion and is the first that permanently establishes ISAF troops outside Kabul, stresses AFP.
More than 170 German soldiers in Kunduz on Tuesday officially came under the command of NATO’s ISAF, writes Germany’s DPA. Until now, U.S. troops maintained one so-called Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Kunduz. The German PRT is the first to operate under ISAF and not under the anti-terror mandate of “Enduring Freedom,” says the dispatch. It quotes ISAF Commander Gen. Gliemeroth saying he believed that in the future, more (PRTs) would come under the mandate of ISAF. The dispatch continues: “The takeover of the German PRT in Kunduz marks the start of the planned extension of the protection forces outside Kabul. In the face of a deteriorating security situation and with the first free elections planned for next summer, both the Afghan government and the UN have been pushing for an extension of the deployment.” China’s Xinhuanet makes a similar observation.
Striking a different note, Brussels’ Le Soir warns, however, that the transfer of authority is blurring the distinction between peacekeeping troops and U.S. combat troops. “Transferring the PRTs to ISAF means a broadening of NATO’s peace effort in Afghanistan. This appears to correspond to Belgium’s military projects. But it also means an alignment of NATO’s troops with the American effort and, for the Afghan population, this may erase the distinction between the soldiers in the U.S.-led coalition and the others. Is this desirable?,” asks the newspaper.


  • According to AFP, French Foreign Minister de Villepin said in Lisbon Tuesday that NATO will remain the cornerstone of European defense policy, despite plans to give the EU an independent military planning capability. “That we are all very attached to NATO, the force of this alliance is evident,” he said during an address to a meeting of Portuguese ambassadors, adding: “At no moment has anyone proposed setting up rival bodies to NATO, to create duplications, that would be unproductive, useless, to get into such rivalries. The transatlantic relationship continues to be, more than ever, a central axis of Europe’s foreign policy. What is important is that each time Europe wishes to act, it should be able to do so if it so wishes.”


  • A second round of diplomatic talks to address implementation of EUCOM’s transformation plan is slated for this month or next month, reports the Stars and Stripes. According to the newspaper, a EUCOM spokesman said the discussions were the next step as the Department of Defense fine-tunes what shape EUCOM will take in the future. He reportedly cautioned, however, that transformation is not about reducing the U.S. footprint in Europe, but rather about re-evaluating how EUCOM can better organize itself in the context of the global security picture. The article adds: “The EUCOM transformation plan, spearheaded by EUCOM Commander Gen. Jones, has sparked speculation by Europeans and American military personnel as to how quickly it will occur and what communities will be affected. Gen. Jones has pledged to keep several German bases, including the air bases at Ramstein and Spangdahlem and the training area in Grafenwoehr, but he never specified which bases would close. He has said, however, that troops deployed to the Middle East from Europe would be returning home to Europe, and that their home bases would not be closed in their absences.”


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