- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Canadian Defense Minister Peter G. MacKay is worried that NATO, as it approaches its 60th anniversary, is being undermined by members of the alliance who “pick and choose” which missions to support.

Some nations, like Germany, place “caveats,” or restrictions, on the deployment of troops to keep them out of combat in Afghanistan, while the United States, Britain, Canada and the Netherlands do the bulk of the fighting.

“It still comes down to political will and your commitment to the mission,” Mr. MacKay told the German Marshall Fund of the United States on a Washington visit last week. “But some countries pick and choose a mission like a buffet.”

He said he understands that domestic pressure sometimes prevents national leaders from fully supporting NATO actions.

“Some [countries] choose to place caveats, but some are under constitutional restrictions,” Mr. MacKay said.

He added that the NATO force in Afghanistan has enough non-combat support.

“It’s combat troops that are needed in Afghanistan if we are to succeed,” he said. “We need to get back to basics. First and foremost is to re-establish security, then rebuild after that.”

Mr. MacKay warned that the fight against Taliban terrorists is complicated by their ability to hide in Pakistan and plot attacks against Afghan and NATO targets.

“The Taliban are gaining in strength because they have the ability to seek safe haven in Pakistan,” he said.

He also expressed alarm over Pakistani religious schools, called madrassas, “which are producing young, motivated people who hate the West.”

“They are one of the worst sources of future terrorism,” he said of the schools.

Mr. MacKay also called for more expansion of the alliance to include countries like Albania, Croatia and Macedonia.

“For any alliance to survive, it has to renew itself, bringing in new blood,” he said. “The Balkans are critically important.”

However, he added, some new members in the alliance of 26 nations are questioning the commitment of some of the older members.

“I’m afraid that some of the newer members think the alliance has gone rather wobbly,” he said.

NATO is preparing for the 60th anniversary summit of national leaders April 3-4 in Baden-Baden and Kehl, Germany, and in Strasbourg, France.


Fiji might be a South Pacific paradise to sun worshipers who respond to the tourist board call to “Fiji me.” But pro-democracy advocates are worried about a military government that grabbed power through a coup more than two years ago.

U.S. Ambassador Steve McGann on Monday added his voice to the growing call for a return to civilian government.

“While it is fortunate that freedom of religion is vibrant and strong throughout the Pacific, it is unfortunate that democracy is yet to be realized in Fiji,” he told the Fiji Muslim League’s national celebration of the prophet Muhammad’s birthday.

Cdr. Frank Bainimarama led the military coup against an elected government in December 2006 and has since resisted calls for a return to democracy. He has cited delays in preparing laws to ensure fair elections.

Mr. McGann added that the United States “does not object” to efforts to prepare for a stable democracy, calling for “inclusive, transparent discussions and constitutional processes that incorporate the views and aspirations of all Fijians.”

However, he said Washington agrees with the views expressed recently by the Pacific Island Leaders’ Forum that criticized the military government for the delay in restoring civilian rule.

• Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail James Morrison.

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