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Afghans Take Over 'Next Year'


NATO has no plans to scrap or move its Allied Command Transformation from Norfolk, Va., the alliance's secretary general told reporters this morning.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that Defense Secretary Robert Gates' decision to shut down Joint Forces Command, which works hand-in-glove with ACT, would not affect the alliance's center for developing new capabilities and operational concepts.

While NATO won't shutter ACT, he did say the alliance is trying to find efficiencies by trimming command and committee structures.

In other news, Rasmussen said NATO forces would begin handing over operational authority to Afghans next year. Pressed, he would not be more specific saying withdrawal must be based on conditions on the ground. However, he made it pretty clear that NATO will be moving pretty much in accord with U.S. forces. President Obama, of course, has set July 2011 as the target date for the start of the troop withdrawal.

He repeated his earlier proposal to beef up NATO missile defense so it can serve as a shield for all of Europe. Cost -- about 200 million Euros on top of the basic 800 million Euros already committed for theater missile defense. NATO has been speaking with Russian officials about cooperation on missile defense. That could, he said coining a memorable line, protect people from "Vladivostok to Vancouver." Let's see if Russia, often obsessed with alleged NATO interference in Georgia, is willing to sit down and allow the Iranian threat to shape their decisions on this crucial issue.

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