Will Host Limited (But Controversial) Defense Against Iranian
The United States and the Czech
Republic signed agreements Friday that will allow the United States
to build a limited ballistic missile defense system to protect
Europe from missiles fired from Iran or other rogue nations.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Czech Defense Minister
Vlasta Parkanova signed the status of forces agreement that will
allow basing of US forces in the Czech Republic and a declaration
on strategic defense cooperation between the two nations.
Gates was in the Czech Republic for a NATO defense
The Czech Republic will host a US-built radar that will protect
most of Europe from a limited ballistic missile attack. The radar
-- along with missiles based in Poland -- will be able to shoot
down a small number of missiles launched by rogue states.
"[The two agreements] will finalize the framework for stationing
US personnel in the Czech Republic in connection with the missile
defense radar site," Gates said. "This is a culmination of a
process that will draw our nations closer and will help protect
Europe from limited missile attacks."
Gates praised the Czech Republic for taking the lead against
future Euro-Atlantic threats and thanked the minister and her
people for their support. He specifically thanked the Czech people
for their sacrifices in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"The agreement ... will be a significant contribution to the
security of own country, to the security of the Euro-Atlantic
region and ... also a significant contribution to the Atlantic
Alliance," Parkanova said through a translator. "It may seem that
we have taken a lot of time to sign the two documents, ... but this
is indicative and proof of one fact: that the negotiations were
tough, but fair, and that both parties can carry through their
The radar site will be built in the Brdy Military Training Area.
A study US experts will conduct in November will give a better idea
when the facility will be finished. Under the agreement, no more
than 250 American personnel can be based at the facility.
Gates spoke about the NATO meeting after the signing.
"This meeting was about transformation of the alliance," Gates
said. "I think there was general agreement that the kinds of
measures that we discussed and the actions the ministers have
mandated are aimed at improving NATO's capabilities across the
board. If we are able to follow through on the initiatives that we
have discussed, NATO's ability to meet all its commitments will be
Gates also said the ministers discussed funding for doubling the
size of the Afghan National Army. "There was discussion of the
expansion of the Afghan National Army and the added costs that will
be involved," he said. "On the margins of the conference, I let a
number of my colleagues know that we would be in touch in terms of
sharing the cost."
Improving the capabilities of the Afghan army is NATO's
long-term exit strategy from Afghanistan.
"Good governance, civic development are equally important [in
Afghanistan], but turning security responsibilities to the Afghans
themselves at some future date is really the goal we all have in
mind," Gates said. "We need to be prepared the share the cost to
make that happen."
(Aero-News thanks Jim Garamone, American Forces Press