Center for Strategic Decision Research



The Impact of the New Revolutionary Scenario on

Our Multinational Strategy

Admiral Giampaolo Di Paola
Chief of Defense of Italy


The revolution that epitomizes the contemporary security scenario, with medium to long term effects that are difficult to clarify, calls for an open and frank debate and exchange of ideas in order to reach coherent and efficient decisions for a safer, more stable and more peaceful global future.

Today, as we did with every other revolution that has occurred throughout human history, we are forced to face reality with an innovative approach and a quest for new ideas. In a phase of revolution like the current one, experience, recognized as a valuable resource, is no longer sufficient. On the contrary, it can actually hamper our search for solutions because it may suggest that we apply obsolete models. It can obscure our perception of change, thus making our search for more efficient solutions difficult.

I have greatly appreciated General Back’s speech. I completely endorse his views and analysis about the situation and the challenges that the Alliance will face in Afghanistan during the coming months. Being the operational commander responsible for the mission, he has clearly articulated the risks involved and has not avoided giving us clear warnings about the problems that will need to be discussed and solved by the member countries of the Alliance.

The Italian position is to continue with our significant contribution to ISAF. We will continue to be in the front line, as we are in so many other places in the world. This commitment underlines our policy to world security in the 21st century. We do not need to be convinced of the need to share the burden of responsibility for security and stability, crucial conditions from any perspective, for free and democratic development. With reference to this I would like to discuss some personal thoughts that I consider relevant for the future.


The mission in Afghanistan clearly shows that the frontiers of stability and security can frequently be located far away from our home countries, where risk factors originate, and that their effects have global consequences even at great distances, as is the case with international terrorism.

At the beginning of this century we moved from a forceful intervention in Kosovo in 1999, located close to home on the fringes of the Alliance’s old area of responsibility, to the following ones located in Western Asia. Within a very short time the “space” element, or “projection” of security, has grown geometrically, reaching magnitudes not comparable with the past.The absurdity of this growth in the “projection of security” is that the risk or the insecurity factor we perceive inside our own countries has now increased considerably, notwithstanding any consideration for geographical locations.

Any improvements in our ability to project our security apparatus further from home has not diminished our overall perception of insecurity. For this reason security is an external-internal continuum, without borders either at the national level or at the international one. I do believe this is an important element, an element that needs to be moved from the conceptual level to that of elaboration and that of practical implementation, possibly shared.


A second point is the impact of the revolution in the security scenario on the nature of military operations, an impact that is also revolutionary. In almost all the interventions that have supported security and stability¾Afghanistan is a good example—the mission of the military component does not come to an end with the military defeat of the adversary, which thankfully normally occurs in the initial phases and does not last for a very long time.

The mission continues during the following phases of post-crisis stabilization and reconstruction, which last for a much longer time and which are more complex and difficult. Their aim is to overcome the destabilization causes, enabling the achievement of the political-strategic goals of the whole mission. During these phases the military component is called upon to achieve and maintain the necessary and essential security conditions for the implementation of the stabilization and reconstruction initiatives. The military component provides a direct, decisive contribution, interacting in a complex manner with all the elements that are characteristic of these theatres of crisis, including the local populations.

Today our interventions are not only against opponent forces but also in support or in favour of someone—we operate “among the people.” Often “the enemy” cannot be separated but may actually be inside the social context that needs itself to be stabilized.

All this has a great impact on many aspects of the military operations, starting from the strictly operational ones—contingent configuration and capabilities, use of force criteria and rules of engagement, operational procedures, force protection, and much more—through those factors that are more akin to the creation of the conditions to overcome the destabiliszing factors. All of these activities are directly related to supporting any reconstruction effort.

This is what we are doing today in Afghanistan, specifically in the Provincial Reconstruction Teams, together with governmental and non-governmental organizations and agencies. PRTs are proving to be quite effective and, with a case by case adaptation, could be exported to other operational theatres, where the stabilization and reconstruction activity is becoming more and more relevant, as it is in Iraq.

The action of the military component needs to be considered as a qualifying factor and an integral part of the wider range of tools available in order to support and cooperate with institutions, and to assist with the reconstruction of structures and organizations.

Today the overall achievement of a mission is often measured by the success of the activities that go beyond the military intervention itself but which cannot be set aside.


There is almost always a requirement to assist with the implementation of a multinational stabilizing proactive strategy, which includes a strong synergy between the military component and the political, diplomatic, and cooperation components. Thus, a strategy is developed through a holistic and interdisciplinary approach, coordinated at the international and inter-institutional level.

Military operations, initiatives, intervention tools and related methodologies should be developed with the aim of achieving effects which are coherent with the assigned strategic goals. We need to link together into a net all the tools at our disposal, in order to address and to optimize their considerable potential.

The mission in Afghanistan is a very good example of the nature of new missions and the risks associated with them—missions in which the primary goal is not only the achievement of a military victory, but also the more complex one of contributing in an essential way to the reconstruction process and to the transition towards democracy, contrasting those who are opposing this process by violence and terrorism.

In Afghanistan, NATO has taken on a very important commitment, which I personally consider is critical for its own future as an organization. It is a commitment that requires member countries to provide strong and solid support to the operational effort. In addition it requires members to actively engage with the increasing speed of the transformation process which is coherent with the new NATO vision in order to be capable of producing solutions to the revolution of the security scenario and to the globalization of the new risks.

ISAF needs to be, at the same time, a “test bed” and an engine for transformation. If the current ISAF mission proves to be confirmation of NATO’s ability to adapt itself to the new security needs, it is essential that the success of this mission is used as an opportunity to optimize and accelerate the process of transformation itself.


I would like to say, with this last personal thought, if Afghanistan is and must be considered a true challenge for the Alliance’s future —and facing it NATO needs to undertake its own responsibility—in a similar way it is true that Afghanistan is a challenge for the whole international community.

The ISAF task is to provide stability and a security asset in the country, in addition to supporting the legitimate government in the process of democratic consolidation and territorial expansion. The current expansion in the southern areas of the country is, therefore, a process that is natural, coherent, and functional; however it is not without difficulties.

It would be a mistake to consider this expansion as essentially a military problem. There is no doubt that the military component will provide the leverage and the essential security environment in which to take this important step ahead. All this will require coherent answers for the operational level, for the support of the Afghan Security Forces, and for increasing cooperation with the Enduring Freedom forces.

The success of the Alliance through ISAF—whose acronym synthesizes the goals and the expectations of the international community—cannot be set aside as a stand-alone action. Countries will need to continue to develop progressively, in a way that is increasingly effective, coherent and coordinated, multinational and multifunctional structures and organizations, in order to support the growth of Afghanistan across the full spectrum of reconstruction.

Should this not be the case, a deterioration of the situation could become a real possibility, with the serious consequence of opening a critical front which would strongly influence our perspectives on the overall security and stability scenario and challenge our thinking on the action required to combat international terrorism.


I will attempt to put “Kabul and Beyond: NATO’s Challenge in Afghanistan” in a wider perspective, which is to try to see why we are in Afghanistan and whether we are following the right path in Afghanistan. I believe that we are in Afghanistan because Afghanistan is a case in point concerning what I would call the “revolution of the international scenario.” This revolution of the international scenario, in my view, has been caused by several ongoing trends that are completely transforming the world we live in. One trend is the growing gap between the developed and the underdeveloped, the haves and the have-nots. Another one is globalization, which is really permeating this new security scenario. The third one is the technological explosion which has brought about a new way to communicate, in the same way Gutenberg’s invention of the press was a new way to communicate, but also led to a worse divide than before: one is either on the technological connectivity side or is out. The fourth great trend, I believe, is that we are witnessing a loss or diminishing sovereignty with what I would call a plus and a minus. In many parts of the world, this loss of sovereignty has been compensated by a higher level of aggregation, such as the European Union or other forms of association which somehow take responsibility for certain elements of sovereignty. In other parts—Afghanistan is one of those—the lack of sovereignty means complete loss of sovereignty, therefore giving way to what we call failing or failed states, or rogue states, depending on the terminology. So on one side, the world is developed, connected, globalized, and aggregating in some higher form of association; on the other, the world is underdeveloped, disconnected, out of the globalization process, and with a failing sovereignty. This is what I call the revolutionary security scenario.

Confronted with this situation, what can the international community at large do to try to tackle this huge problem which manifests itself through crises that we are witnessing in many parts of the world, in the Balkans, in Afghanistan, in Iraq etc.? The only possible way to attempt to solve this problem in the longer term is to try to extend the area of connectivity and decrease the area of disconnectedness. Afghanistan was certainly part of this area of disconnectedness and it is the reason why, I think, the international community went into Afghanistan: to try to bring Afghanistan out of this disconnected area and into the connected area of the world. But because of the nature of the situation, there is a strong need for the holistic approach that Rainer Schuwirth referred to in his presentation. This holistic approach would really mean a new way to use all our tools, not only the military ones—military tools are one of them—to make the changes that are necessary to solve the problem.

When we look at what is happening in Afghanistan, there is another very interesting aspect of the operations there: What we, the military part of the tools, are experiencing is no longer a war or a confrontation between people. We are operating our military people with the goal of trying to win the hearts and minds of the Afghan population. At the same time, our adversaries, our opponents, are from within this same population. So the military is no longer really operating to defeat the enemy. The purpose of the military operation and of the use of the force is to create the conditions by which a holistic approach can be brought to bear on finding a solution to the Afghan problem. Therefore, the way the military operates, the way it makes responsible use of the force, becomes very important. If our goal is to create and maintain conditions that will make it possible for the other means of power to solve the Afghan problem—which could take fifteen, twenty years, or more—the issue is not to defeat the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, the issue is to win the hearts and minds of the Afghani people so that the Afghan nation can rebuild and come into the connected part of the world. Certainly, defeating the Taliban is instrumental to maintaining conditions that will permit all the other instruments of power to work but it is not the issue. If we take a military approach in Afghanistan in which the main issue is to use the full power of our military forces, we may end up creating more problems than solutions. So there is a real need for a very responsive approach to military operations in Afghanistan. Gerhard Back is right when he says that we need unity of purpose because too many people are currently working in Afghanistan with different approaches. This is the worse position to adopt because in the end nobody on the other side can understand it, neither the local populations who see the military behaving arbitrarily in one way or another, nor our opponents who do not necessarily perceive any difference between “coalition” or “NATO” forces. Their reasoning is that if you are in uniform, you are in a Western uniform and therefore I am against you.


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