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All NATO Allies to Join Iraq Training Mission by Feb. 22

By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service

NICE, France, Feb. 10, 2005 – All NATO allies will be part of the alliance's mission of training Iraqi forces by the time the alliance's heads of state converge for a major summit meeting Feb. 22, Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said here today.

He spoke at a news conference during informal meetings of NATO defense ministers that began Feb. 9 and conclude today.

Scheffer said that by the time the summit begins, all 26 NATO nations would be conducting training inside or outside Iraq, or contributing money to the training mission's trust fund. The secretary-general took a bottom-line approach when asked if France would participate as a member of the alliance or through bilateral arrangements.

"Who does what, exactly - and we know there are allies training inside and there are allies training outside Iraq - is, I must say, not of great concern to me," Scheffer said. All 26 nations have supported the mission politically, he added.

NATO's transformation agenda was a key topic of discussion, the secretary-general said. "We looked at how to ensure deeper consultation on possible troop operations to ensure the broadest possible political support for those operations," he said. "We discussed establishing a longer-term and more comprehensive approach to force iteration to ensure more predictability in what forces are available when we need them. And if we need them, the forces we have available should be ... usable forces - forces we can really need in our operations."

That area is an essential part of NATO's military transformation, he said. "I think we can do better there; a lot has happened, but we can do better," he acknowledged. "We can do better in the usability discussion. We can do better in getting the forces ready when we need them. We can do better in ... transferring them from A to B, and deploying them in theater, and sustaining them."

NATO is expanding its mission to the west and south in Afghanistan, with two U.S.-run provincial reconstruction teams transferring to the alliance's control and two new NATO PRTs scheduled to begin operations, Scheffer said. As the alliance's role grows larger in Afghanistan, he added, the allies must work on the synergy between NATO's International Security Assistance Force and Operation Enduring Freedom, which are separate entities.

"All allies agree we need more synergy between OEF and ISAF," he said. The notion of unity of command was "very much on the table" at today's discussions, he noted, though further discussions on the matter will need to take place.

"We are going to work in an incremental way and start with some form of unity of command," he said, adding that unity of command doesn't necessarily have to be at the highest levels.

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