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NATO: Robertson Says Alliance Should Command Forces In Afghanistan

Munich, 8 February (RFE/RL) -- NATO Secretary-General George Robertson today called for the alliance to take a "bigger role" in Afghanistan. Robertson made the comments at an annual international security conference in Munich. He said NATO needs to take a bigger role in peacekeeping efforts in the war-torn country because there is "no credible alternative."

Earlier today at the same conference, German Defense Minister Peter Struck also called for an expansion of NATO's role in Afghanistan, including a possible role as the head of international security operations.

Struck travels to Kabul tomorrow with Dutch Defense Minister Henk Kamp. Germany and the Netherlands are set to assume a six-month joint command of the International Security Assistance Force in and around Kabul this month.

Also in Munich, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov warned of a possible comeback by the Taliban in Afghanistan. He said Taliban remnants in Afghanistan are constantly plotting against the leadership and staging acts of terror.

Late yesterday, five Afghan soldiers were killed after coming under attack by unknown assailants. No group claimed responsibility for the attack.

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, speaking today at the Munich conference, said: "We all hope for a peaceful solution [in Iraq]. But the one chance for a peaceful solution is to make clear that free nations are prepared to use force if necessary -- that the world is united and while reluctant is willing to act. There are those who council that we should delay preparations. Ironically, that approach could well make war more likely and not less likely because delaying preparations sends a signal of uncertainty instead of a signal of resolve."

He added: "If the international community once again shows a lack of resolve, there is no chance that Saddam Hussein will disarm voluntarily or flee his country."

On last week's blocking by France, Germany, and Belgium to allow NATO to make preparations in case of an attack by Iraq against fellow NATO member Turkey, Rumsfeld said: "NATO member nations have an Article 5 committment to defend Turkey should it come under attack by Iraq. Those preventing the alliance from taking even minimum measures to prepare to do so risk undermining the credibility of the NATO alliance."