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Jones Outlines NATO, EUCOM Transformations

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 23, 2004 – NATO and U.S. European Command are shedding their Cold War-era structures and mindsets and transforming to more effectively meet 21st-century threats, the commander of U.S. European Command said here today.

Marine Gen. James L. Jones told reporters at the National Press Club that NATO is engaged in a variety of missions against threats unforeseen when the alliance formed in 1949.

It's supporting the global war on terror, helping protect the Mediterranean Sea through the naval mission Active Endeavor. It's conducting peacekeeping operations in Bosnia -- a mission it will turn over to the European Union on Dec. 2.

In Kosovo, NATO is conducting what Jones said is still "a very dangerous" mission, working to establish a safe and secure environment in the face of deeply engrained ethnic tensions. And quietly, working behind the scenes, NATO helped the Greeks provide security at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Jones said.

But some of NATO's most important missions are those being conducted outside its traditional area of operations, Jones said.

The alliance assumed command of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan in August 2003.

In addition, all 26 NATO members unanimously agreed at the NATO Summit in Istanbul, Turkey, in June to assist Iraq's security forces. NATO is providing critical training both in and outside Iraq and acting as a "clearinghouse" for military equipment, Jones said.

In addition to expanding its area of focus, Jones said NATO is increasing its capabilities. This includes establishing the NATO Response Force and standing up the NATO chemical-biological-nuclear defense battalion led by the Czechs, he said.

While calling NATO's transformation "exciting," Jones acknowledged that it faces roadblocks, ranging from shrinking budgets and military forces to different viewpoints about how NATO forces can be used.

"Transformation can't occur if at the same time you're reducing budgets and forces," he said. At the same time, Jones said, the alliance needs to eliminate many of the restrictions some member nations place on the missions their forces can carry out. The issue most recently came to light in March in Kosovo, where NATO forces were unable to quell violence and destruction at a church they were guarding. Jones didn't mention where the forces were from, but he said their home country's limitations on the use of force made the troops practically helpless against a Kosovo Albanian mob that looted and burned the shrine. Seven people died, and dozens more were injured. Jones said national restrictions on troops' activities hampers NATO's effectiveness. Too many restrictions and caveats, he said, tie the hands of on- the-ground commanders working to accomplish their mission quickly and efficiently, he said.

Jones acknowledged the alliance nations might not be able to come to a full agreement as they attempt to eliminate some of these restrictions. "Zero may not be possible, but we can do better than we have done," he said.

Similarly, now that NATO has agreed to help train Iraqi security forces, Jones said some member countries' refusal to send forces into Iraq to conduct the training unfairly burdens those nations that do. "Once the alliance is involved in an operation, it's important that they all support that operation," he said.

While retooling its operations and operating areas, NATO is restructuring itself, based on agreements made during what Jones called "the most visionary summit we've had in a long time" -- the 2002 NATO Summit in Prague.

Jones said most of the reforms agreed to in Prague are completed or on schedule. "The NATO command structure is completely overhauled," he said.

The result, he said, is an alliance that is prepared to take on the challenges it will face in the years ahead. "NATO is moving, transforming into something that will be very, very relevant to societies on both sides of the Atlantic," he said.

At the same time, Jones said, U.S. European Command is revamping its own command structure and rethinking traditional ways of operating. It's "harnessing new capabilities and technologies," closing excess facilities, and moving toward a concept that includes forward operating bases and cooperative security locations.

While making these changes, Jones said, it's important that the United States continues to keep "a significant footprint" in Europe. "It's extremely important. If you're going to be strategically engaged, you need to be more present, not less," he said.

But Jones stressed that presence is likely to differ vastly from what it was during the Cold War era. "We do not need to be more present along the Fulda Gap (in Germany) ...(or) in what we used to define as Western Europe," he said, "when in fact the arc of instability is very much to the east and ... the south, and likely to continue that way for at least the foreseeable decade."

Contact Author

Gen. James L. Jones, USMC

Related Sites:
U.S. European Command
International Security Assistance Force
NATO Response Force

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