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Prodded by the US doctrine of preemption, the North Atlantic
alliance signaled yesterday its determination to refocus its
activities on the developing world in order to root out suspected
terrorist cells in the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere.
"The center of gravity for the last 50 years in the alliance has
been in Western Europe," Nato's Supreme Allied Commander in Europe,
General James Jones, told Newsweek magazine.
"But the center of activity is, in my perspective, moving east, and
I think its not an understatement to say that the geostrategic
center of interest for the foreseeable future has to be the greater
The comments come as the Western Alliance, credited with winning
the Cold War, is undertaking the most sweeping transformation since
the end of the superpower standoff with the now-defunct Warsaw
In a major expansion of its geographical sphere of operation, Nato
has assumed control of an allied military operation in Afghanistan
designed to keep Taliban and al Qaeda force at bay.
US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said last week that the size
and shape of "the US footprint," or deployment posture, in the
world will evolve to reflect new security requirements of the 21st
He did not offer details, but Jones made clear the alliance
intended to establish a presence far beyond Afghanistan and the
Middle East - and was expected to move into Africa.
"Africa is replete with ungoverned spaces for attracting the
merchants of terrorism, radical fundamentalism, weapons of mass
destruction and all kinds of criminality," he said, "and I think
were going to see more of that".
The Nato commander suggested covering the African continent with a
network of relatively small but efficient military facilities, or
so-called "forward operating locations," that could accommodate
alliance troops should a need for their intervention arise.
Nato is considering "bare-bones footprints with dirt strips and
very low-level maintenance, but strategically in place," he
"As you might imagine, a lot of those would be perhaps somewhere in
Africa and the like. They have been called 'lily pads'".
Jones, who assumed command of Nato forces in January, also said
events in Latin America were cause for "an emerging concern" not
only for Nato but also for the US.
The overhaul of Nato's strategic posture stems from Rumsfeld's 2001
proposal to create a rapid response force that would allow the
alliance to step beyond its traditional focus on Europe by giving
it global reach.
The plan received the alliance's formal stamp of approval at its
Prague Summit in November.
In June, Nato defense ministers overhauled the alliance's command
sturcture, transforming the Norfolk, Virginia-based Allied Command
Atlantic into Allied Command Transformation headed by US Admiral
According to defense officials, the main task of the revamped
command, which was inaugurated that same month, is to establish the
response force that is expected to become fully operational late
The force, whose size is expected to eventually reach 20 000
troops, will be able to deploy to trouble spots within days and
conduct operations on a sustained basis for up to a year, the
officials said. – Sapa-AFP.