NATO Defense Ministers Focus on Afghanistan, Cyber, Libya
By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service
BRUSSELS, Jun. 4, 2013 NATO defense ministers meeting here will discuss a new direction for operations in Afghanistan, alliance cyber defense efforts and a possible Libya training mission, Air Force Gen. Philip M. Breedlove told reporters today.
Breedlove assumed command of U.S. European Command and the associated role of NATO supreme allied commander for Europe last month.
Speaking at NATO headquarters, where he is attending his first defense ministerial conference in his new role, Breedlove said his first priority for the alliance is to remain vigilant, and to meet future challenges with agile, capable, interoperable military forces.
His second priority now and in the immediate future, he added, is the transition in Afghanistan. That topic is on tomorrow’s agenda for the defense ministers, he noted, but their meetings will focus on the concept of operations for the mission that will replace the International Security Assistance Force effort, set to conclude at the end of 2014.
Breedlove said the new train, advise and assist mission, called Resolute Support, “will be the fruition of more than a decade of sacrifice and hard work on the part of ISAF.”
After ministers meet tomorrow and provide more guidance on Resolute Support, he added, NATO planning teams will, in the coming months, flesh out the specifics of how the alliance will fulfill the follow-on mission.
Moving to the subject of cyber, Breedlove invoked the words of his predecessor, Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis, in saying that cyber has the largest gap between NATO’s preparedness and the threat the alliance faces.
NATO is working to strengthen its network defenses, he noted, but he added that the work is far from complete. “We recognize that these threats continue to evolve,” he said.
The alliance’s Cyber Center of Excellence in Tallinn, Estonia, is “part of the way ahead for NATO to find better ways to reinforce the strength of the integrity of our networks, and enhance our security,” Breedlove said.
The general then turned to Eucom, where the United States has cut troop strength and is studying further reductions.
“I’m working intensely with my European colleagues and other partners to emphasize the strength and the vibrancy of our transatlantic linkages,” Breedlove said. “Our security is deeply interwoven and supported by the deep roots in both economic and cultural shared values with our neighbors in Europe.”
Relations between the United States and its European allies and partners are enduring, he said, and “will continue to thrive through all of our challenges, whether they are economical or tactical.”
Breedlove acknowledged the United States is “paying more attention to Asia militarily than it has in the recent past,” but said America’s past, present and future are “deeply linked with our NATO allies, and there is no doubt that we will continue to best secure our future together, as a fully committed, full-time member.”
Breedlove responded to a question on the potential U.S. role in a possible alliance training mission in Libya. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said this morning that the Libyan government requested NATO’s security advice, “and we have already moved fast to respond.” The alliance will send a team of experts to Libya, where they will assess what assistance the alliance can offer.
“This is a real short-term thing,” Breedlove said of the assessment. “I believe that [Rasmussen] has announced that the results of that study should be done by the end of June.” He noted the secretary general also announced that any training NATO forces supply will be done outside of Libya.
“In the past couple of weeks, we have been looking at this … on the U.S. side,” the general said, “and considering how and where and why this might work; and we will, as the U.S. part of NATO, contribute our thoughts to this fact-finding mission. And then we’ll see how that comes out.”
As part of NATO, he added, the United States would be part of that mission.
Breedlove said as this week’s ministerial meetings proceed, “I am very encouraged that we are taking on the tough issues like Afghanistan and cyber, and I’m looking forward to our progress.”