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Bangladesh: U.S. And NATO Forge New Military Partnership In South Asia

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Bangladesh: U.S. And NATO Forge New Military Partnership In South Asia
Rick Rozoff

The Foreign Ministry of Bangladesh disclosed on September 26 that the United States had requested combat troops for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's military command in Afghanistan.

The effort to recruit Bangladeshi soldiers for the nine-year-old war was made in an overture by U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke to Bangladesh's Foreign Minister Dipu Moni in New York City, presumably on the sidelines of or following last week's United Nations General Assembly session.

A statement issued by the government of Bangladesh said that Holbrooke "sought for any kind of help like deploying combat troops, providing economic and development assistance or giving training among the law enforcement agencies." [1]

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Should the government of Bangladesh accede to the American request, it would become the 48th official Troop Contributing Nation for NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and the seventh Asia-Pacific nation to provide troops to the North Atlantic military alliance for its war in South Asia, one which has further advanced across Afghanistan's eastern border into Pakistan with marked ferocity during the past five days. NATO will have gained another major ally in the building of its Asian complement using the Afghan-Pakistani war theater as the grounds for integrating the armed forces of countries on the other side of the world from the North Atlantic for what is expanding into a global U.S.-led military network.

Bangladesh's combat forces would join military units from Malaysia, Mongolia, Singapore, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand among Asia-Pacific countries, with a report that a 275-troop marine contingent from Tonga is also to arrive in Afghanistan soon. Japan has personnel assigned to NATO's Provincial Reconstruction Teams in the country and in the past has supplied the U.S. with naval assistance for the war effort.

The inclusion of Bangladesh into the ranks of NATO's ISAF, however, would constitute a milestone in two key ways. It would be the only country in South Asia with troops in the war zone aside from the two nations in which the expanding conflict is being fought: Afghanistan and Pakistan. And Bangladesh would be the second most populous state contributing to NATO's military campaign, only surpassed by the U.S., as it has the seventh largest population in the world at 160 million.

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The war in Afghanistan has provided the Pentagon and NATO the groundwork for working with the militaries of scores of nations under real world and real time combat conditions. Every European country except Belarus, Cyprus, Malta, Moldova, Russia and Serbia has deployed troops to Afghanistan under NATO command, as have the nations of the South Caucasus: Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. The United Arab Emirates is the first Persian Gulf state to do so.

Though not yet official contributing nations, several other countries have personnel in Afghanistan or on the way, including Bahrain, Colombia, Egypt and Japan. Over a quarter of the world's nations have supplied military contingents for the North Atlantic bloc's war in Afghanistan.

In the past year both the U.S. and NATO have intensified activities aimed at integrating Bangladesh into the West's military nexus, both in preparation for the deployment of its troops to Afghanistan and for solidifying what for the past decade has been referred to as Asian NATO.

This May 12 a roundtable meeting was held in the capital of Bangladesh entitled "The Role of NATO in the New Security Order" with the participation of several "experts, military personnel and former government officials from the region." [2] The title of the event suggests it was conducted in the context of last year's discussions of the new NATO Strategic Concept held in several European and North American nations. The Indian subcontinent is far-removed from the North Atlantic Alliance's point of origin, but the new doctrine to be adopted this November at NATO's summit in Portugal will institutionalize the bloc's expansion into an international military and - to use its own term - security organization.

The keynote address was delivered by former Norwegian defense minister Anders Christian Sjaastad and the roundtable as a whole "discuss[ed] the present and possible role of NATO in [the] new security order...."

A local newspaper account of the meeting reported that "Speakers at a roundtable here...said the greatest evolution taken place in NATO over the past 20 years was its transition from a static, defensive force to a force ready to take on security missions well beyond its traditional Trans-Atlantic borders."

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"Since the last revision of the strategic concept, NATO forces have undertaken missions in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo, counter-piracy missions in the Gulf of Aden, counter-terrorism missions in the Mediterranean Sea, training missions in Iraq, and active military operations in Afghanistan." (NATO's bombing campaign in and deployment of 60,000 troops to Bosnia in 1994-1995 predated the current Strategic Concept adopted in 1999.)

NATO has in fact expanded into a global military force, the first in history, and in the words of the former Norwegian defense chief, "It was the attacks of September 11 in 2001 and the Afghanistan campaign that turned what had been theoretical analysis into reality." [3]

"The event made NATO 'go global.'" [4]

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Rick Rozoff has been involved in anti-war and anti-interventionist work in various capacities for forty years. He lives in Chicago, Illinois. Is the manager of the Stop NATO international email list at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/stopnato/

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