NATO, Eucom Commander Identifies ‘Three Big Issues’
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 9, 2013 Looking to the year ahead for NATO and U.S. European Command, the senior commander for both cited three big agenda items: setting conditions for Afghanistan, improving cyber security, and continuing to defend NATO’s border with Syria.
“First, we have to get Afghanistan right as we shift our mission from combat to train, advise and assist,” Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis wrote in his command blog posted today.
“We’ve laid the right tracks for the change in early 2015,” he noted, working with all 28 NATO nations and other potential partners to define the new mission after 2014.
That requires forces in Kabul, the Afghan capital, but also in Mazer to the north, Herat to the west, Kandahar to the south and Bagram to the east, Stavridis said.
“Geography and distribution of forces have an important power in the narrative,” he said.
Training, assisting and mentoring efforts must continue at least down to the corps level, and the equivalent level within Afghan police forces, Stavridis said. He also recognized the need for enablers to support coalition forces and help the Afghans develop capabilities in force protection, intelligence, medical response, fire support, air fires, quick reaction and logistics.
Meanwhile, the admiral also noted the importance of improving cybersecurity, pointing to the high threat posed in the cyber domain and the low level of preparation to confront it.
“In most other areas, we are far more prepared for our role,” he said, pointing to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, countertrafficking, antipiracy and ongoing operations in Afghanistan and the Balkans.
Stavridis emphasized the need to improve and expand the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defense Center of Excellence in Tallinn, Estonia, which currently includes 15 nations. NATO also needs to develop an ability within its command structures to repulse cyberattacks and to encourage allies to work together in countercyber activities, he said.
In addition, he pressed for NATO to define a cyberattack to update its treaty that, when signed in 1949, never anticipated this new form of threat.
Recognizing NATO’s role in protecting more than 3 million people who live near the NATO border with Syria from ballistic missile attacks, Stavridis said vigilance must continue.
“In my capacity as U.S. European commander, I believe that the real threat is chemical weapons,” he said. What’s needed, he added, is to continually monitor the situation and support U.N. efforts to investigate claims of chemical weapons use and to ensure Turkey is fully protected from external threats.
Noting that Turkey already has taken on more than 100,000 refugees since the conflict began, Stavridis said NATO must be prepared to assist with the growing humanitarian crisis.
Stavridis posted his blog before setting off for Turkey to discuss the situation there, then to Georgia and Israel. “We have to build bridges in this 21st century with partners, both for NATO and the U.S.,” he said.
The Senate Armed Services Committee has slated a hearing later this week to hear from Air Force Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, whom President Barack Obama nominated to succeed Stavridis as NATO’s supreme allied commander for Europe and Eucom commander.
In announcing Breedlove’s nomination late last month, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel offered high praise for Stavridis, who has held the position since 2009.
“Admiral Stavridis has played an absolutely essential role in strengthening the NATO alliance to meet the challenges of the 21st century, to include enhancing our collective capabilities and partnerships,” Obama said in a statement. “I am grateful for his steadfast service on behalf of our country and NATO.”