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NATO Response Force Depends on Allies’ Support, Gates Says

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

HEIDELBERG, Germany, Oct. 25, 2007 – The United States supports the concept of the NATO Response Force but needs NATO allies to do their part so the force can live up to its intended purpose, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told European military leaders here today.

“To be fully successful, it will require full allied political support, both in terms of pledges to the force and with regards to how it is used,” Gates told officers attending the 15th Conference of European Armies.

Depending on progress in these areas and in other allied contributions, the U.S. is willing to do its share,” Gates told participants at the conference, sponsored by U.S. Army Europe.

Gates traveled here directly from the NATO informal ministerial conference in Noordwijk, Netherlands, where defense ministers discussed the future of the NATO Response Force, established in 2002.

The group agreed to scale it back its ambitions to create a 25,000-member force in light of the alliance’s other responsibilities, particularly peacekeeping missions.

"Ministers agreed to take forward the discussion on what we call the graduated approach," NATO spokesman James Appathurai said at the ministerial conference.

The future of the NRF had been in question because NATO members had been withdrawing pledges to contribute troops or equipment they said were needed for other operations.

NATO declared the NRF fully operational at its 2006 summit in Riga, Latvia. Since then, the alliance has reaffirmed the force’s twin roles: to catalyze transformation and be prepared to respond to new crises and unforeseen needs in ongoing operations.

Gates has expressed concerns that the NRF wasn’t living up to its intended purpose and hoped to make it “more usable,” a senior defense official traveling with the secretary told reporters on background.

Gates specifically had hoped the NRF could play a bigger role in Afghanistan.

“There's no point in keeping it on the shelf, given the operational tempo,” the official said before leaving Washington for the trip here.

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Robert M. Gates

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Web Special Report: Travels With Gates
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