Nato must continue operations 'beyond our borders'
Nato must be prepared to launch new military operations outside its own territory after it pulls out of Afghanistan, its secretary general has said.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen said alliance members must be willing and able to exercise military power "beyond our borders" to combat threats such as terrorism and missile attacks.
Mr Rasmussen spoke as Nato members prepared to gather today in Lisbon to plan the future role of the alliance.
After almost a decade of military operations in Afghanistan, some European Nato members have suggested that the alliance should focus on defending its home territory.
By contrast, Britain and the US believe that to remain relevant, Nato must be prepared to tackle potential security threats beyond its members' borders.
Mr Rasmussen supported that view, urging alliance members to accept that new security threats may have to be met.
"Our core function will remain territorial defence of our populations," he said. "But we must realise that in the modern world we have to go beyond our borders to actually protect and defend our borders."
Afghanistan could serve a template for future threats and Nato's response to them.
"After the Cold War, we have seen a number of new threats emerge," he said. "Terrorism is one of them."
The Lisbon summit will adopt a "strategic concept" or mission statement in a post-Afghanistan world.
"The purpose of the new strategic concept is to prepare the alliance to address the new security challenges – missile attacks, cyber attacks, terrorist attacks," Mr Rasmussen said.
He also promised that a reform of Nato's command structures will make alliance forces "more flexible".
As well as the mission statement, the summit will also consider a European missile defence shield. The shield, based on US interceptor missiles, will rely on British radar stations to detect attacks.
The missile shield is being developed primarily because of fears of Iranian missile programmes, but Mr Rasmussen said other countries could also pose a threat.
"More than 30 countries have missile technology or are aspiring to get missile technology," he said.
"Some of them can also hit the Euro-Atlantic area."
Alliance leaders will later confirm a timetable for starting the "transition" of security responsibility from Nato forces to the Afghan government, starting next year and concluding at the end of 2014.
Mr Rasmussen said he was confident that Afghan forces will be ready for that responsibility in time, but accepted that the timetable could slip.
He said: "If conditions are not met fully by the end of 2014, then we will have to continue the combat mission."