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NATO Response Force Ready for Duty, Rumsfeld Says

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

ISTANBUL, Turkey, June 27, 2004 – NATO's rapid response force is up and ready for its first mission possibly to support the upcoming Olympics in Athens or the national elections in Afghanistan, if requested, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told reporters here today.

Speaking at the NATO Istanbul Summit, Rumsfeld said the force, proposed by the United States just a year and a half ago, will fill a vital gap within the alliance. "The reality is that NATO is a military alliance that has no real relevance unless it has the ability to fairly rapidly deploy military capabilities," the secretary said. "And NATO did not have a NATO response force that could do that."

The force consists of air, ground, naval, special operations and other specialized units from NATO nations that can be tailored to specific missions, he explained. Missions could range "from peaceful, humanitarian-type assistance all the way up to full-fledged combat," Rumsfeld said.

In either case, these forces are "on a short string, ready to go," the secretary said.

Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called the NATO Response Force a major part of NATO's effort to transform itself so it's more capable of responding to current threats. Myers said the force, which he expects will develop over time, provides "forces that are useable, deployable, and can meet various missions."

Myers said the force is made up of modular pieces that make it adaptable to whatever missions it's called on to support. If, for example, the Greek government requested NATO help at the upcoming Olympic games, Myers said the rapid response force's most-needed capability could conceivably be its chemical and biological decontamination units. "You don't need a bunch of infantry battalions," he said. "So it would be tailored to the task."

Rumsfeld said he's anxious to see the new force already on its third six- month rotation put into use. "Now the task is to use it," he said. "There's no use having it if you don't use it."

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Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld
Joint Chiefs Chairman Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers

Related Sites:
North Atlantic Treaty Organization
NATO Istanbul Summit

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