October 5, 2007


India holds key in NATO's world view (M K Bhadrakumar, 10/06/07, Asia Times)

NATO's future role in the Indian Ocean forms part of a well-thought Western strategy. NATO's naval mission to the Indian Ocean in September coincided with another major initiative by Washington. The newly created Africa Command (AFRICOM) of the US military, reflecting the long-term strategic value of Africa, is poised to begin its initial operations in October.

The newly appointed AFRICOM commander, General William E "Kip" Ward, has stressed the "need for close coordination" with NATO. Indeed, since July 2005, NATO has provided air transport for peacekeeping forces in Darfur. But Ward anticipates a deeper and vastly expanded NATO involvement in Africa.

He said last week, "AFRICOM could assist NATO efforts on the African continent by ensuring close coordination of US contributions and capabilities to NATO operations and training. NATO is uniquely suited to allow AFRICOM access to European interests and capabilities and experience on the African continent ... AFRICOM can provide logistical support to NATO, professional military training and engagement in conjunction with and other security operation and outreach efforts."

AFRICOM's "command tasks" are profound. As a senior US official put it, they are not about "searching for militants in lawless or ungoverned areas" or about "chasing terrorists around Africa"; rather, they include among other things "conducting region-wide security operations" and "if necessary, conducting military operations".

Significantly, on September 20, Washington pressed ahead with a resolution in the United Nations Security Council on Afghanistan with a new element - the US-led coalition's Operation Enduring Freedom maritime interception component.

Russia pointed out that such a blanket provision giving the right of maritime interception did not appear in any of the previous Security Council resolutions on Afghanistan or any conflict situation for that matter. Russia sought clarification, and proposed that instead of blanket permission, the resolution should "reflect the imperative observance of international law and national legislation in carrying out any actions involving interception of ships in the Indian Ocean's waters". However, Russian concerns were ignored and the US pressed for a vote.

The new provision effectively gives the US-led coalition in Afghanistan the right to intercept and board vessels suspected of carrying arms or reinforcements for terror groups that operate in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border areas. It serves the purpose of legitimizing NATO's future maritime activities in the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea - an ominous development against the background of the US's standoff with Iran.

At the same time, NATO's Mediterranean Dialogue (1995) and the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative or ICI (2004) have already brought the alliance from the eastern Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf region.

To counterbalance this Axis of Good the PRC has its partnerships with North Korea and Myanmar and al Qaeda has no state sponsors.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 5, 2007 7:46 AM

No overt state sponsors.

Posted by: Bartman at October 5, 2007 9:50 AM

It opposes every state.

Posted by: oj at October 5, 2007 2:58 PM