General Describes EUCOM Transformation, Expresses Hope for Iraq
By Terri Lukach
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 3, 2005 U.S. and NATO missions around the world and optimism for the future of freedom in Iraq were among the topics discussed today in a radio interview by the top U.S. military officer in Europe.
Marine Gen. James L. Jones, commander of U.S. European Command and supreme allied commander for Europe, appeared on "The Diane Rehm Show," carried on National Public Radio.
Jones told Rehm that European Command is undergoing a "profound transformation" from the way things were in the 20th century when the United States had a "clearly defined enemy" in the Soviet Union and "a static, reactive defensive posture" designed to fight a war that, happily, never came. EUCOM, he said, is redefining both its structure and its mission.
At the same time, he said, NATO also is "redefining and 're-missioning'" itself. The threats of the Cold War, Jones said, "have been replaced by an asymmetric family of threats" that face all NATO nations, including the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, illegal immigration, and narcoterrorism.
Over the last two years, NATO has rid itself of obsolete infrastructure and transformed from an alliance with a defensive mindset focused on a fixed enemy to one with a much more global and expeditionary concept of operations, the general noted.
The must stunning example of this, Jones said, is the NATO Response Force, which will be fully operational in 2006 and ready to move anywhere in the world on five days' notice. The NATO Response Force will serve as a complement to the types of operations the U.S military has undertaken in recent years, he said. Another major change is NATO's willingness to operate in places outside its borders, such as Afghanistan, Iraq and the Balkans.
NATO also is deeply engaged, Jones said, in the effort to help struggling democracies help themselves, particularly in regions such as Africa and the Caucasus to ensure that they "do not become the Afghanistans and Iraqs of tomorrow."
Jones expressed optimism for the future of democracy in Iraq, and called its recent elections a "defining moment."
"The Iraqi people made an eloquent and courageous statement that bodes well for the future of that country," he said. "This is the time to stay the course, and NATO will help." The general noted that all 26 NATO nations have voted to take on the mission of training and advising the new Iraqi security forces. The training will proceed in three ways, he said. First, NATO will train Iraqi security forces and the emerging Iraqi general staff within Iraq. Second, NATO nations will train Iraqi security forces in countries other than Iraq. Third, NATO will serve as a type of clearing house for military equipment and other donations that can be used immediately by the Iraqi security forces.
Already, Jones said, the mission is going extraordinarily well. Training has begun at the senior headquarters level, and the training of roughly 1,000 junior- to middle-grade officers will begin in the near future. An additional 500 Iraqi security forces will be trained outside Iraq.
"We are well into the developmental and production cycle of turning out capable Iraqi fighting units that, over time, will be able to stand on their own," he said. "It is a significant challenge, but one with profound implications for the future. Whatever time it takes to accomplish will be worth it for the future."
In response to questions, Jones said he agreed with Gen. John Abizaid, head of U.S. Central Command, that the insurgency in Iraq is weakening, noting that those now being targeted by suicide bombers are primarily Iraqis themselves. In time, he said, it will be a problem for the Iraqi security forces to solve. Until then, he said, the multinational coalition will be there to help.
Regarding whether the U.S. should have committed more forces to the fight, Jones said the force assembled to defeat Saddam Hussein's army was indeed adequate and did so in rapid fashion -- more rapidly, in fact, than anyone expected. As for any lack of armor or equipment, Jones said, the forces that delivered the "stunning victory" over the Iraqi regime "were not underequipped."
Discussing the U.S. Marines' overwhelming victory in routing terrorists and foreign fighters from Fallujah, Jones described urban warfare as "the most difficult and costly we can engage in." Fallujah presented tough problems, he said, but the Marines -- well trained and well led -- did an "extraordinary job."
In Fallujah, Jones said, the insurgents made a strategic error. "They thought world opinion would force us to pull back, and keep us from going on to the bitter end," he said. "Had they believed we would persevere, I believe they would have left town a lot quicker." Fallujah was a major strategic defeat for the insurgency, he said, "and I'm not sure they have completely recovered."
As to when U.S. and coalition forces will leave Iraq, Jones wouldn't speculate on a timetable. But he did predict success for U.S. and multinational forces. "The coalition is engaged in a massive effort to bring peace, stability and democracy to countries that have not had that experience," he said. "I am absolutely convinced that it will be successful."