NEWS

Greece’s crucial role in war against terror

The US Army will send units into Afghanistan by helicopter to help the Afghan opposition forces, but the war against the Taleban can only be won by the Afghans themselves, General George Joulwan, NATO’s senior military commander between 1993-1997, told Kathimerini this week. The general emphasized the importance of unity between the Afghan opposition forces, not an easy feat and one that he said required the direct involvement of Washington. Joulwan met in Washington last week with NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson, who he said had told him of a series of NATO actions which involved Greece, including the transfer of AWACs to patrol the USA’s eastern coastline, also using European crews. The general drew attention to the strategic importance of the geographical position of both Greece and Turkey for information-gathering. Joulwan called for cooperation between the two countries within NATO in the fight against terrorism, for the good of the alliance and humanity. We have to understand that this threat concerns the whole planet. That is why we have to act like a team that has a mission, he said. The base at Souda, on the island of Crete, was important in that it was a transit point for forces. Joulwan said he had been impressed with the high level of quality and readiness he had seen at the base during a visit a few years before. Asked how Greece was regarded at the moment within NATO, he replied that the country had been very useful in the Balkans, in that it had provided a very important transport unit that covered all of Bosnia. He also emphasized the importance of the NATO regional headquarters in Larissa, which he said enabled better coordination between Greece, Turkey and other countries. With regard to the possibility of American forces being transferred from the Balkans to Afghanistan, he said this would be a very good decision for NATO and that one of the purposes of having regional headquarters in Greece, Turkey and Larissa was to be able to respond to these kinds of needs. I personally believe that transferring Greek forces in the Balkans to replace American forces that might be withdrawn is something that should be seriously considered. We have been preparing for something like that since 1994 and we should be able to do it, he said. Kaklamanis, in his usual long-winded way, lauded Simitis as a man who achieved so much and whose rectitude I never doubted, preferring instead to castigate American policies and, on the side, terrorist attacks.