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Nato Needs to Change the Tack
  Written By: Claude Salhani   *
  Article Date:
September 01, 2008



If he hasn’t already, as President, Barack Obama will realise soon enough that the troops he withdraws from Iraq will in all likelihood end up redeploying to Afghanistan. And, a President McCain, will likewise be faced with the reality that American forces may well end up staying in the region for the next hundred years.

But, it won’t be in Iraq. Whether itís President Barack Obama or President John McCain, the next resident of the White House will be faced with two harsh realities:  First, the United States needs to withdraw its armed forces from Iraq sooner rather than later. And secondly, the United States and its Nato allies will be required to step up efforts and troop numbers committed to fighting the war in Afghanistan.

In the months and years ahead, Afghanistan will represent a headache to either Obama, who wants to push for a ëresponsibleí withdrawal from Iraq, or McCain who is ready to keep the troops there for 100 years, if necessary.

Indeed, the operations that Nato has been facing ó in taking over this American war — is proving to be its most serious challenge since the end of the Cold War. In fighting this asymmetrical war, Nato is considerably outside its normal theatre of operations in many respects?

The Northern Atlantic Treaty Organisationís concept was of conventional armies in Europe trained to defend against the conventional armies of its Soviet bloc neighbours —  it being a US — established alliance utilised to turn European concerns away from post-World War II German aggression, and focus it on the USSR threat. It’s likely that in those days, no one ever imagined Nato would be conducting anti-guerrilla warfare in the rugged mountains of Afghanistan in the early twenty-first century.

This has been a challenging period of transformation, said Richard Prosen, from the U.S. State Department’s Office of European Security and Political Affairs, speaking last week at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies.

In military bureaucratese — yet with a certain level of clarity — Prosen indicated that Nato is transforming itself from what was a static reactive alliance focused on territorial defence, to an expeditionary pro-active global security alliance.

Nato today faces multiple challenges: from increasing Taleban activity in Afghanistan, terrorist threats in other parts of the world — including infiltration into Europe — to the horrifying possibilities inherent in the rise of nuclear proliferation. Nato policy wonks have qualified these as the allianceís significant threats.

The future looks very, very grim, said Yonah Alexander, Director of the International Center for Terrorism Studies. Alexander explains that destroying the terrorist threat will be very difficult, given the fact that Nato is fighting an ideology, not just a military force.

Brussels — or really Washington ó is going to have to convince the silent majority within the group of 26 countries that make up the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation that failure in Afghanistan represents a real danger to Europe and ultimately to North America.

In that regard, when President George W. Bush spoke of Iraq, and warned that the terrorists had to be stopped in the Middle East before they reach the streets of New York, the analysts say he just got the country wrong. Afghanistan is where the terrorists must be stopped.

More recently Nato has come to realise the need of a metamorphosis of its original mission, as there has been a re-emergence of Russia as a power to be reckoned with ó as the conflict in Georgia has shown.

Russia is attempting to draw a new line across Europe, and the United States is strongly opposed to this, said Ian Lesser, a senior Trans-Atlantic fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States.

And Lesser cautions, the Nato Alliance is going to have to reconsider the whole business of nuclear forces and nuclear strategy.

That being said, Natoís strategic concentration will be focused in two principles, but very different directions.

First, the alliance will have to deal with fighting an unconventional war in Afghanistan in which victory cannot be achieved purely from a military perspective. Yes, more troops are needed to defeat the threat in Afghanistan, but ëvictoryí can only be achieved when a genuine democracy takes hold; when corruption is curbed; and when, finally, drug-trafficking is curtailed and ruthless tribal warlords are replaced by the rule of law, good governance, and a strong central government. That will take several decades, if not more.

Second, as relations with Russia become much more competitive and strategic, Nato will need to revise post-Cold War era plans, retrieving Cold War analyses that have likely been gathering dust on back shelves somewhere at Nato headquarters and adapt them accordingly. In a little over three months the United States will have a new president and, given the current situation, possibly a new Cold War as well.

Claude Salhani is editor of the Middle East Times and a political analyst is Washington, DC

"It allows them to do their homework and projects online, and provides opportunities for them to network with foreign students and industry experts," adds Wan.

The initiative is part of Autodesk's overall education strategy to train a new generation of skilled graduates who can meet the employment needs of China's fast-diversifying economy.

Three years ago, the group set up a Centre of Excellence computer laboratory with cutting-edge design technologies in collaboration with leading Chinese universities to develop a multidisciplinary curriculum customised to student needs.

Currently, Tsinghua University, Tongji University, Harbin Institute of Technology, South China University of Technology (SCUT) and Shanghai Jiao Tong University benefit from this project.

"Institutes of higher learning are places where information regarding changing cultural trends and advanced skills and technology are passed on to students. Architecture is one such skill," says Professor Li Jian Cheng, deputy director of the Architectural Technology & Science Institute, School of Architecture at SCUT.

"To enable our students to have a competitive edge in the workforce after graduation, the principal of SCUT pays constant attention to technological advances to ensure our students have working knowledge of the latest developments."

Prof Li adds that the training has enabled his graduates to find employment in the field of building design, where the demand for architectural skills is growing.

As public and private sector organisations in China increasingly recognise the opportunity the global design industry offers the local economy, China's universities are realising the importance of partnering with global leaders such as Autodesk.

The industry ventures are in line with a recent government campaign to focus on "independent innovation". The goal is to move away from "Made in China" to "Designed in China", by creating value-added, home-grown products, services and technologies.

Message of innovation

China's policymakers - no longer content with the country's role as the "world's factory" - have been aggressively promoting the message of innovation as the key to competitiveness.

"The government also wants to move towards sustainable development. The rising pressures on the country to reduce carbon emissions make sustainable design a growing area of importance and have led to a focus on integrating new technology," says Wan from Autodesk.

He adds that the transition cannot happen unless China nurtures and develops a pool of skilled labour, which can help it raise its status from that of low-cost manufacturing base.

"The government recognises one of the effective ways to bring about change is through education, to improve the global image of its students and show that they have the skills and knowledge to compete in the global marketplace."

Local enterprises such as Lenovo, Huaqi Information Digital Technology and Founder Technology have also set up independent industrial design departments to enhance their competitiveness.

But China's onward march is not without challenges. Because design is important in so many industries, there is a dearth of local experts to keep pace with rising demand.

Unlike other parts of Asia, such as Singapore or Hong Kong, which roll out the red carpet for foreign workers, mainland China cannot get round the problem by hiring from abroad.

"One foreign hire is equal to 10 local hires, so cost is an issue," says Wan. "This is why they need to train local people to fill the design-related technical jobs, as the demand is across all industries, not just for certain sectors."

While the educational investments by Autodesk have introduced innovation and creative design at the ground level, the more important goal of bridging the skills gap, is certainly going to be a more time-consuming process.

Wan says that it may take China a decade to build a sustainable talent base of engineers and designers who can support the industrial needs of the country.

"Every year, about 1.5 million engineers graduate in China. In about 10 years time, there will be enough qualified skilled students to meet the challenges China faces."

Source: Khaleej Times