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Updated: 11-Mar-2004

SHAPE News Summary & Analysis

11 March 2004

  • Belgium to double contribution to ISAF
  • NATO considering mission to help with Afghan elections
  • Authorities press pace of Afghan disarmament


  • NATO chief blasts “mindless act of barbarism” in Madrid


  • Daily: U.S. general will lead Iraqi army


  • According to De Standaard, Defense Minister Flahaut confirmed Wednesday that at a force generation conference at SHAPE headquarters Thursday, Belgium would offer to double its contribution to ISAF. The article adds that Belgium plans to offer two Para commando companies, thereby bringing its contribution to ISAF from about 300 to about 600 military personnel. “The Force Generation Conference is taking place with sights set on a progressive enlargement of ISAF beyond Kabul,” the daily stresses. Under the title, “NATO ready to take wider role in Afghanistan,” the Financial Times wrote that Gen. Jones was expected to unveil ambitious plans Thursday for NATO to take full responsibility for the security of northern and western Afghanistan—eventually taking command over the whole country. “Gen. Jones said the plan would be carried out in two phases as NATO and the U.S.-led Operation Enduring Freedom … carve out areas of responsibility. Gen. Jones said that by June, when NATO holds its summit in Istanbul, Alliance and coalition forces could be running 18 PRTs. Under the NATO plan, Britain would take the lead role in the north, using Mazar-e-Sharif where it currently runs its own PRT as a center for NATO teams. Later, NATO will move westwards where it will make the city of Herat its main center of operations,” said the newspaper. It added that through the PRTs, NATO, among other tasks, is supposed to provide security during voter registration for the parliamentary and presidential elections tentatively planned for June.

  • AFP reports NATO Secretary General de Hoop Scheffer announced Wednesday that NATO is examining a request from President Karzai for help in organizing upcoming elections in Afghanistan. According to the dispatch, Mr. de Hoop Scheffer confirmed reports that the organization had received a written request from Karzai for NATO to help support the voter registration drive and election process. “We have started discussing President Karzai’s letter,” he reportedly said The dispatch also quotes an Alliance official, saying, on condition of anonymity: “This is not going to involve NATO soldiers standing guard at every election booth. We’re not planning elections under guns. The exact nature of this backup force will have to be determined.”

  • According to AP, authorities pressed the pace of disarmament for Afghanistan’s unruly militias Thursday, pledging to rid Kabul of heavy weapons in time for summer elections. At a ceremony in Kabul, Afghan Defense Ministry officials took possession of the latest batch of armor from a factional militia brigade, says the dispatch. Noting that the transfer is also being guided by ISAF, the dispatch quotes the force saying in a statement: “It is the intention of the Ministry of Defense to accelerate the process so that all heavy weapons in Kabul are cantoned prior to the elections.” The dispatch observes that the handover Thursday means that about one-quarter of all the heavy weaponry in Kabul have been removed from the city and placed in sites guarded by government troops.


  • AFP reports NATO Secretary General de Hoop Scheffer condemned the deadly blasts in Madrid Thursday as a “mindless act of cruelty and barbarism,” stressing that the Alliance was determined to defeat terrorism. “I wish to express my shock and anger in response to the appalling terrorist attacks this morning in Madrid. On behalf of the Alliance, I condemn in the strongest possible terms this mindless act of cruelty and barbarism,” he reportedly said, adding: “Our solidarity with Spain remains steadfast, as is our Alliance’s determination to vigorously pursue our efforts to combat terrorism.” Electronic media report a string of deadly blasts has hit three Madrid train stations during the rush hour with latest reports speaking of more than 170 people killed. While there was no immediate claim of responsibility, Spanish officials were quoted saying the Basque separatist group ETA was to blame for the attacks.


  • According to The Daily Telegraph, a senior British official said Wednesday Iraq’s armed forces would come under the direct command of a U.S. general even after America and Britain formally hand over sovereignty to a new Iraqi government this summer. Washington will retain control of security during the transition period. Iraqi military forces will be treated as another contingent of the U.S.-led multinational force, which will be led by a U.S. general, the newspaper claims, quoting the British source saying: “You will not see much change in the security sector. There will be a unified command, and that commander is bound to be American.”


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