You've said that NATO's credibility is on the line in Afghanistan. Does the Alliance have enough troops there to do the job? Definitely. There are approximately 10,000 [soldiers] there, so the forces and the equipment are in place to support President Hamid Karzai and the electoral procedures [leading up to the Oct. 9 presidential election]. It's NATO's ambition now to go west, down to Herat, so I think we're on the right track. It's never been in the cards that NATO would be able to pacify the whole country. We are there to support the [Afghan] government taking its own responsibilities.
Wouldn't you like to have more troops? Yes, I can always wish for more. NATO needs more forces because we have an ambition to go [into western Afghanistan, where there has been unrest in the city of Herat]. If I look into the more distant future, [calls on NATO's] participation or leadership will increase, not diminish. NATO's performance will be more and more judged on the way it's running its operations. We need very close relations with the U.N. We need very close relations with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. NATO should be able to play a role in Darfur. NATO's assistance would need a specific request from the U.N. and the African Union (A.U.), but I think NATO would assist technically and logistically, let's say, [supplying] the hardware to an A.U. peacekeeping force. If NATO were to receive such a request, I think NATO would answer it.
Do you expect such a request? I can't go into any detail, but I do not exclude it.
Why take on a role in Iraq, a war that many in the Alliance feel was a mistake that is now fueling terrorism? All the allies realize that whatever their differences in the run-up to the war, the international community cannot afford to lose Iraq. We can't let that country develop into a failed state. We have to support the Iraqi interim government.
Commitments in Afghanistan and Iraq, and possibly Darfur, take NATO far outside its original remit. Is NATO becoming the world's peacekeeper? NATO is about collective security and collective defense. To do that, we need a huge transformation agenda. Afghanistan is logistically very complicated and far away from home. But NATO has made a commitment. Why? Because if we do not fight threats far away from home, they land on our doorstep. We are in Afghanistan to prevent that country from becoming a safe haven for terrorists again. We used to defend our borders; now we have to project stability. That's what we're doing in Afghanistan, in Kosovo, in Bosnia. NATO has neither the means nor the ambition to be the world's gendarmes, but it will act if it sees that action is in the interests of the alliance. NATO has a lot on its plate. Let's not have unrest if an alliance of 26 nations starts to argue and debate, because that's what the alliance is for. These are uncharted waters for NATO, but I'm not the type of Secretary-General who sits back and says, Hands off uncharted waters.