‘NATO must launch operations beyond its borders’


London : The NATO secretary general has said the alliance must be prepared to launch new military operations outside its own territory after it pulls out of Afghanistan.

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Alliance members must be willing and able to exercise military power “beyond our borders” to combat threats such as terrorism and missile attacks, Anders Fogh Rasmussen told the Daily Telegraph ahead of a NATO meeting Friday in Lisbon, Portugal, to plan the future role of the alliance.

After almost a decade of military operations in Afghanistan, some European NATO members have suggested that the alliance should focus on defending its home territory.

However, Britain and the US believe that to remain relevant, NATO must be prepared to tackle potential security threats beyond its members’ borders, the daily said.

Rasmussen supported that view, urging alliance members to accept that new security threats may have to be met.

“Our core function will remain territorial defence of our population,” he said. “But we must realise that in the modern world we have to go beyond our borders to actually protect and defend our borders.”

“After the Cold War, we have seen a number of new threats emerge,” he said. “Terrorism is one of them.”

The Lisbon summit will adopt a “strategic concept” or mission statement in a post-Afghanistan world.

“The purpose of the new strategic concept is to prepare the alliance to address the new security challenges — missile attacks, cyber attacks, terrorist attacks,” Rasmussen said.

He also promised that a reform of NATO’s command structures will make alliance forces “more flexible”.

The summit will also consider a European missile defence shield. The shield, based on US interceptor missiles, will rely on British radar stations to detect attacks.

The missile shield is being developed primarily because of fears of Iranian missile programmes, but Rasmussen said other countries could also pose a threat.

Alliance leaders will later confirm a timetable for starting the “transition” of security responsibility from NATO forces to the Afghan government, starting next year and concluding at the end of 2014.