NATO Response Force Will Transform Alliance, Jones Says
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 1, 2005 The introduction of NATO's response force in 2006 will transform the alliance and help it to better confront 21st century challenges, the U.S. military's top officer in Europe told a Senate panel today on Capitol Hill.
Deploying NATO forces outside of Europe "is the concept that gets us away from the static" 20th century defensive posture that characterized the alliance since its formation in 1949, Marine Gen. James L. Jones explained to members of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
NATO was formed to provide a bulwark against potential Soviet aggression against Western Europe. But since the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the emergence of asymmetric threats personified by terrorist attacks on the United States and elsewhere, U.S. leaders have urged NATO to transform and become more flexible and expeditionary.
Current NATO overseas missions in Afghanistan and elsewhere are using traditional alliance assets, said Jones, the supreme allied commander for Europe and commander of U.S. European Command. Today the alliance has 26 members.
However, the upcoming response force, Jones noted, specifically being designed to deploy to locales outside of the traditional NATO area of operations.
The response force will be "fully manned and certified to embark upon expeditionary operations - wherever it might be called," he said.
The new NATO expeditionary force requires certain built-in, transformational capabilities, such as an integrated intelligence center, Jones said.
And, "so goes the NATO response force, so goes NATO in terms of transformation," the four-star general asserted.
Senior U.S. government and allied leaders have recently raised the idea that NATO troops might be employed to foster peace in the Middle East, particularly as a buffer between the Palestinians and the Israelis.
"It is a topic that is being discussed," Jones said, although he acknowledged he hadn't yet received any official tasking.
Jones noted that when arrived to assume his duties in Europe in 2003 there was talk about deploying NATO troops to Afghanistan.
The general said he "didn't think anything" of that possibility at the time. Eight months later, he noted, NATO troops were in Afghanistan.