Bangladesh: U.S. And NATO Forge New Military Partnership In South Asia
September 29, 2010
Bangladesh: U.S. And NATO Forge New Military Partnership In South Asia
The Foreign Ministry of Bangladesh disclosed on September 26 that the United States had requested combat troops for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s military command in Afghanistan.
The effort to recruit Bangladeshi soldiers for the nine-year-old war was made in an overture by U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke to Bangladesh’s Foreign Minister Dipu Moni in New York City, presumably on the sidelines of or following last week’s United Nations General Assembly session.
A statement issued by the government of Bangladesh said that Holbrooke “sought for any kind of help like deploying combat troops, providing economic and development assistance or giving training among the law enforcement agencies.” 
Should the government of Bangladesh accede to the American request, it would become the 48th official Troop Contributing Nation for NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and the seventh Asia-Pacific nation to provide troops to the North Atlantic military alliance for its war in South Asia, one which has further advanced across Afghanistan’s eastern border into Pakistan with marked ferocity during the past five days. NATO will have gained another major ally in the building of its Asian complement using the Afghan-Pakistani war theater as the grounds for integrating the armed forces of countries on the other side of the world from the North Atlantic for what is expanding into a global U.S.-led military network.
Bangladesh’s combat forces would join military units from Malaysia, Mongolia, Singapore, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand among Asia-Pacific countries, with a report that a 275-troop marine contingent from Tonga is also to arrive in Afghanistan soon. Japan has personnel assigned to NATO’s Provincial Reconstruction Teams in the country and in the past has supplied the U.S. with naval assistance for the war effort.
The inclusion of Bangladesh into the ranks of NATO’s ISAF, however, would constitute a milestone in two key ways. It would be the only country in South Asia with troops in the war zone aside from the two nations in which the expanding conflict is being fought: Afghanistan and Pakistan. And Bangladesh would be the second most populous state contributing to NATO’s military campaign, only surpassed by the U.S., as it has the seventh largest population in the world at 160 million.
The war in Afghanistan has provided the Pentagon and NATO the groundwork for working with the militaries of scores of nations under real world and real time combat conditions. Every European country except Belarus, Cyprus, Malta, Moldova, Russia and Serbia has deployed troops to Afghanistan under NATO command, as have the nations of the South Caucasus: Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. The United Arab Emirates is the first Persian Gulf state to do so.
Though not yet official contributing nations, several other countries have personnel in Afghanistan or on the way, including Bahrain, Colombia, Egypt and Japan. Over a quarter of the world’s nations have supplied military contingents for the North Atlantic bloc’s war in Afghanistan.
In the past year both the U.S. and NATO have intensified activities aimed at integrating Bangladesh into the West’s military nexus, both in preparation for the deployment of its troops to Afghanistan and for solidifying what for the past decade has been referred to as Asian NATO.
This May 12 a roundtable meeting was held in the capital of Bangladesh entitled “The Role of NATO in the New Security Order” with the participation of several “experts, military personnel and former government officials from the region.”  The title of the event suggests it was conducted in the context of last year’s discussions of the new NATO Strategic Concept held in several European and North American nations. The Indian subcontinent is far-removed from the North Atlantic Alliance’s point of origin, but the new doctrine to be adopted this November at NATO’s summit in Portugal will institutionalize the bloc’s expansion into an international military and – to use its own term – security organization.
The keynote address was delivered by former Norwegian defense minister Anders Christian Sjaastad and the roundtable as a whole “discuss[ed] the present and possible role of NATO in [the] new security order….”
A local newspaper account of the meeting reported that “Speakers at a roundtable here…said the greatest evolution taken place in NATO over the past 20 years was its transition from a static, defensive force to a force ready to take on security missions well beyond its traditional Trans-Atlantic borders.”
“Since the last revision of the strategic concept, NATO forces have undertaken missions in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo, counter-piracy missions in the Gulf of Aden, counter-terrorism missions in the Mediterranean Sea, training missions in Iraq, and active military operations in Afghanistan.” (NATO’s bombing campaign in and deployment of 60,000 troops to Bosnia in 1994-1995 predated the current Strategic Concept adopted in 1999.)
NATO has in fact expanded into a global military force, the first in history, and in the words of the former Norwegian defense chief, “It was the attacks of September 11 in 2001 and the Afghanistan campaign that turned what had been theoretical analysis into reality.” 
“The event made NATO ‘go global.’” 
Whether fully cognizant of it at the time or not, Sjaastad spoke volumes regarding NATO’s 21st century plans in stating that Asia “is where the action is nowadays. Europe, in comparison, is rather dull….All the global conflicts originated from this part of the world.” Whether regarding the recent or remote past, his claim that all global conflicts originated from Asia is an absurd contention, but is indicative of NATO’s determination to pacify and subjugate “unruly” parts of the non-Euro-Atlantic world.
The opening remarks were made by retired Major General ANM Muniruzzaman, the founder and president of the Bangladesh Institute of Peace and Security Studies which sponsored the event, who “spoke of the eastward expansion of NATO, saying that the institution has undergone a sea change. The New NATO had a fresh strategic concept and was expanding beyond its original Eurocentric perimeters.” That is, Europe has been united under NATO control and now it is time to move on Asia.
Someone identified as retired Major General Roomi was in the audience and commented from the floor:
“NATO instead of doing policing is protecting its own security and posing a threat to others. And why are you in Afghanistan? It is not just because of Al Qaeda and the Taliban. It is also because of the oil in the region. You want to ‘tame’ Pakistan, Iran. All this has other motives. NATO only comes with its own interests at heart.”  The former general evidently remembered which side the U.S. and its NATO allies were on during his country’s 1971 war of independence.
Since late last year the Pentagon has demonstrably increased efforts to pull the armed forces of Bangladesh into its geopolitical orbit.
In early November three U.S. military commanders visited Bangladesh. Theirs were names to conjure with: Lieutenant General Benjamin Mixon, Commanding General of United States Army Pacific and former commander of the Multi-National Division North in Iraq. Vice Admiral John Bird, commander of the U.S. Seventh Fleet, the largest forward-deployed fleet in the world. U.S. Marine Corps Major General Randolph Alles, Director for Strategic Planning and Policy at the U.S. Pacific Command, the largest overseas military command in the world.
The three made “separate trips, but the goal of each of the visits [was] to strengthen bilateral security cooperation between the two countries.” They met with the chiefs of the host country’s army and navy as well as senior government officials. Beforehand the U.S. embassy in Dhaka announced that “Their discussions will focus on interoperability, readiness in the region, security-force assistance, and bilateral approaches to maintaining regional stability.” 
Also in early November the U.S. led the first of four Tiger Shark military exercises held in the nation. The latest, Tiger Shark-4, ended on September 26.
At the close of the first, U.S. Ambassador James F. Moriarty attended a graduation ceremony for 59 navy commandos at the Bangladesh Navy Special Warfare and Diving Salvage Centre at the BNS (Bangladesh Naval Ship) Issa Khan Naval Base in Chittagong. “The commandos received specialised training during the US-Bangladesh ‘Tiger Shark’ exercise” that ended on November 13.
According to the American envoy, “The United States Government will continue to assist the Government of Bangladesh in developing this professional, elite force.
“The training demonstrates the United States Government’s commitment to Bangladesh and to regional security by promoting military-to-military relationships throughout Asia and the Pacific.” 
Tiger Shark-2 was held this May and U.S. army personnel “provided highly sophisticated training to the Bangladesh Army on counter terrorism, marksmanship and urban operations.” Ambassador Moriarty “reaffirmed the US government’s support to the Bangladesh government’s efforts to establish a more capable military.” 
Tiger Shark-3 occurred the next month and this time was multi-service on the Bangladeshi side, with army, navy, air force and coast guard units training with the U.S. to “enhance interoperability between the militaries of the two countries” in exercises that included “combat diving, infiltration and ex-filtration techniques, rappelling, helicopters operations, vessel boarding search and seizure, small boat maintenance and repair, maritime navigation, small unit tactics and small boat handling and tactics.” 
Tiger Shark-4 was held from September 19-26 with 500 Bangladesh army, air force and navy personnel along with helicopters and ships and 350 U.S. troops and aircraft, helicopters and ships. For the first time the exercises provided comprehensive “joint military exposure between Bangladesh and the USA,” and “a Commodore from the Bangladesh side and a Rear Admiral from the US side” led their respective nation’s forces. 
As the largest of the four Tiger Shark exercises was underway, 65 American airmen and two C-130 Hercules military transport aircraft arrived in Bangladesh for the three-day Cope South 2010 exercise to practice “aircraft generation and recovery, low-level navigation, tactical airdrop, and air-land missions; and conducting subject-matter expert exchanges in the operations, maintenance and rigging disciplines”  for regional disasters. In the words of U.S. 36th Airlift Squadron commander Lieutenant Colonel Tim Rapp, “The techniques our two nations share and the relationships we build will significantly ease planning and execution of any future combined efforts.” 
Washington’s efforts to recruit Bangladesh into an Asia-Pacific military alliance that includes all but a small handful of nations in the region complements its building a new army and upgrading strategic air bases in Afghanistan. Its penetration of Pakistan’s armed forces. Its further forging of a strategic military alliance with India. 
After employing NATO to subjugate Europe, launching U.S. Africa Command to gain military dominance over the 54-nation continent, and occupying and pacifying most of the Middle East, the Pentagon is concentrating on Asia and increasingly on South Asia.
1) Radio Netherlands/Agence France-Presse, September 26, 2010
2) The New Nation, May 11, 2010
3) The New Nation, May 13, 2010
4) Probe News Magazine, May 2010
6) All Headline News, November 2, 2009
7) Financial Express, November 13, 2009
8) Associated Press of Pakistan, May 13, 2010
9) All Headline News, June 20, 2010
10) The New Nation, September 15, 2010
11) 13th Air Force Public Affairs, September 21, 2010
12) American Forces Press Service, September 21, 2010
13) India: U.S. Completes Global Military Structure
Stop NATO, September 10, 2010