NATO After Istanbul

Last week, the heads of state and government of NATO's 26 member nations gathered in Istanbul for a major summit. The symbolism of a city that bridges two continents was especially appropriate. In Istanbul, we not only reinforced the alliance's vital transatlantic link, but also built bridges of cooperation to other regions. After the discord over Iraq, the summit demonstrated a new momentum in transatlantic security cooperation, and reinforced NATO's role as the major instrument for that cooperation. The key decisions that we took at the summit make this very clear.

First, Afghanistan. NATO decided in Istanbul to expand its stabilising presence. We will increase the number of Provincial Reconstruction Teams in order to support the expansion of the central government's authority and facilitate development and reconstruction. We will also provide enhanced support for the forthcoming elections, which are crucial to ensuring long-term peace and stability and making sure that the country will never again become a safe haven for terrorists.

Second, Iraq. At the request of Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, NATO decided to offer to help train Iraqi security forces. In addition to our continued support for Poland in its leadership of the multinational division in Iraq, NATO will now play a distinct role in helping Iraq. That this decision was taken in conjunction with the transfer of authority to a new Iraqi Government only adds to its significance. The Allies affirmed unambiguously that a stable Iraq is in their common interest and that NATO is part of achieving this. Training is an area that is critical to Iraq's stability, and one in which NATO has valuable experience and expertise to share.

Third, the Balkans. While our presence in Kosovo remains unchanged, the much improved security situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina allows us to conclude our successful SFOR mission there by the end of this year. The European Union will then follow with a mission of its own, and we will support the EU in this endeavor. But NATO will retain a presence in Sarajevo, in particular to help Bosnia and Herzegovina with defense reform. We want to welcome this country, as well as Serbia and Montenegro, into our Partnership for Peace program as soon as they meet the relevant criteria, which include full cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.