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DoD News Briefing with Gen. Jones from the Pentagon

Presenters: Commander, U.S. European Command, NATO's Supreme Allied Commander, Gen. James Jones
August 17, 2006 10:30 AM EDT
BRYAN WHITMAN (deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Public Affairs): It's my privilege to be able to introduce somebody that really doesn't need any introduction to you: General James Jones, who is currently serving as the U.S. European Commander and the NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe. It wasn't that long ago that he was here in this room talking to you, back in March. March 6th, I believe, it was. And he's in town, and he's kind enough to come and spend some time with you and give you an update in terms of what EUCOM and NATO have been doing, and to take some questions from you.

So with that, let me turn it right over to you, General.

GEN. JONES: Thank you. Appreciate it.

Thank you very much, and good morning, all you friendly faces. It's good to back. I have to say that. (Soft laughter.)

Let me -- if I could, by way of just setting the stage, I'd like to talk about a few things. One is just an overall statement to cover NATO and EUCOM, with some specifics with regard to operations. Then I'd like to be a little bit more specific with regard to Afghanistan and Kosovo, and then end with a few remarks about Lebanon.

So with that, I'll proceed. As I mentioned to you the last time I was here, I think 2006 is a very important year for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization; characterize the entire year as being a path on the road to the Riga summit in November, which is going to be, I think, a very important summit, in which heads of state can validate a number of things that are happening in NATO, that have happened for the past few years, and also map the future direction of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in this very difficult world, particularly with regard to some of the asymmetric threats that we face.

As you know, NATO is currently engaged -- I think "globally" is probably the right word -- with a major mission in Afghanistan and continuing mission in the Balkans, notably in Kosovo, where we expect the status talks to have some resolution in the near future with regard to the destiny of that particular country.

Operation Active Endeavor is NATO's only Article 5 mission right now. It's a counterterrorism mission in the Mediterranean, and it's been going on for some number of years, quite successfully, I might add.

We have a small mission in support of the African Union in Ethiopia, in which we bring some capacity building to the African forces that are headed to Darfur and also some strategic lift in and out of Darfur for the nations that are committing those battalions.

We also have the mission in Iraq, which is a very successful, somewhat small but very effective mission to train about a thousand young Iraqi officers to take their place in the ranks of the armed forces at a camp called Ar Rustamiyah. This is a mission that's now fully operational and turning out graduating classes at a relatively good clip.

The second aspect of our mission in Iraq is to assist in the equipping of the armed forces.

And the third one is to assist in training outside of Iraq for nations that make their facilities available and for the Iraqis who -- for example, attend the NATO Defense College in Rome, the NATO schools at Oberammergau and some of the training facilities that our allies have made available to the Iraqi forces.

Lastly, I'd be remiss if I didn't also mention the NATO Response Force, which has been an ongoing, developmental mission, the most transformational, operational capability that we have in the alliance, originally created at the Prague Summit in 2002. It is destined to reach its full operational capability by 1 October of this year.

And we have just recently completed a major deployment exercise of about 6,000 NATO troops to Cape Verde Islands off the west coast of Africa as a proof of concept that NATO can operate a large force at strategic distances and do so successfully.

With regard to the United States European Command, which is my second hat, obviously we've been the supporting commander for U.S. CENTCOM in both OEF and OIF -- Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom -- for a number of years, certainly every year since I've been over there, rotating Army divisions and special requests for forces that come up periodically, and they were very proud of our relationship with CENTCOM. And I think the European Command has done very, very well in contributing its forces to support the CENTCOM missions in both of those countries.

The United States European Command has also in the last several years been involved in a major transformation which will have the cumulative effect of creating a force in Europe that is strategically more agile and more responsive, particularly with focus on areas to the east of where EUCOM had traditionally operated, which is in Central Europe, and also areas to the south, notably with emphasis on North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa at least to start with, with, we would think, more involvement in Africa as the years go on.

The transformation milestones have been met and we are in the process of accepting the Stryker brigade that is arriving in Germany virtually as we speak. We are finalizing our relationships with Romania and Bulgaria for the next phase of the transformation, which is the establishment of an Eastern European task force, and we are working with bringing the 173rd Airborne Combat Team up to three- battalion strength in addition to doing -- working on our Special Forces footprint and just numerous other things that, as I said, will make us more strategically deployable and much more usable in the future in this 93-country AOR.

I say 93 [sic 92] country because Montenegro has joined the EUCOM family, so that brings us to 93 [sic 92]. And we are looking forward to developing our relationship with Montenegro.

More specifics, a little bit about Afghanistan. On the 31st of July of 2006, NATO accepted transfer of authority of forces in the southern region of Afghanistan. Since then, obviously, we've had a number of military engagements. These are not particularly surprising in the sense that the southern region of Afghanistan has long been a region where we have had no large number of permanently positioned troops in the southern region now. Five nations -- five or six nations, Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Australia, Estonia and some U.S. forces have now totalled up about 6,000 troops in the south. We are engaging with desperate elements, certainly the Taliban, but also narcotics -- violent narcotics cartels, criminal elements.

We're also taking on and encouraging the Karzai government to take on the -- some corruption issues in local governments. We're encouraging the development of the police force, which has to do better in these -- in this particular part of the country and be more manifest for the safety and the security of the people.

In brief, this is a strategic moment in the southern part of Afghanistan. It's a test of wills. Certainly, the opposition is testing NATO to see if we in fact do have the will and the capability to stand and fight, and I think the evidence so far that the answer is overwhelmingly "yes." The countries that I just mentioned are doing extraordinarily well, I think, in their military tasks.

They have taken casualties, as you know; since the 16th of August -- I'm sorry -- since the 16th of August of '06, about 27 [sic 11]casualties. And obviously, since we've taken over stage three, we've taken some significant casualties and wounded in action as a result of the enemy activity in our region.

We continue to feel that this strategic moment is, as I said, a test of wills and capability. I believe that with the forces that we now have currently based in that particular section of Afghanistan, that we will soon see an area that is going to gradually over the next several months become a little bit more stable. It's very important that we are able to follow up our successes with evidence for the people of the region that there's a better story, there's a better way of life and there is help coming on the way. And we are working with the international community and the Karzai government to make sure that our military efforts are matched very quickly with the -- and meet the expectations of the people in that particular region.

With regard to stage four, we are working with the United States Central Command on a series of metrics that will allow us to know when we reach the right time for the transfer of stage four under TOA, at which time -- under NATO TOA, at which time that will complete the expansion of NATO, which has taken a few years, but with its counter- clockwise rotation of first Kabul, then the north, then the west, then the south and then the east. We recently, just a few days ago, accepted TOA of the forces of France, Italy and Turkey for the safety and security of the capital region.

And so I think that despite the level of activity in Afghanistan, much of which was predictable, I think that the military coefficient between U.S. forces and NATO forces is rapidly approaching a number of approximately 20,000 on each side.

And I think that the -- in the future we'll see if -- get a greater success as the mission goes along.

With regard to Kosovo, we're approaching an important moment politically that will effect the future of Kosovo. We'll have to wait and see what that is and what the decision is, and we'll have to also wait and see how the Kosovars accept the will of the international community. I believe that KFOR, which numbers now about 16,000 NATO troops is obviously a significant -- made up of a significant commitment of the international organizations and the number of countries that are there.

I visited Kosovo recently. I've been up north of the Ibar River. I've talked to some mayors. We have a dramatically different force than we did in 2004, better trained for civil disturbance missions, a more agile command structure. We've recently completed a transition to a task force concept, which makes the forces available all over Kosovo, instead of just in their predetermined, preassigned sectors. We've virtually eliminated national caveats on the use of those forces, and so we're quite confident that not only is it a capable force, but it's also doing the right things with regard to maintaining good relations with the Kosovar Albanians and the Kosovar Serbs.

We are pleased by the fact that repeat poll after poll shows that most trusted organization in Kosovo is the NATO force, led by General -- Italian General Giuseppe Valotto and we're very proud of the work that our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines are doing in Kosovo.

Lastly, if I could give you a few words on Lebanon. This was not a NATO mission, so I'm now wearing my American hat as the commander of United States European Command. We are able to announce that today the -- following the directions of the secretary of Defense, we will begin to transition between US EUCOM and CENTCOM for the mantle of responsibility with regard to Lebanon.

Heretofore, EUCOM had been the supporting force to CENTCOM. CENTCOM, as you know, has responsibility for Lebanon, while EUCOM has the responsibility for Israel. The rationale for changing back -- changing to EUCOM with EUCOM as the lead component -- I'm sorry, the lead unified command -- is simply because of the logic of EUCOM's location with regard to the Europeans, with regard to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, with regard to Israel and the fact that until recently, Lebanon was a EUCOM country. So we will be working with the U.S. Central Command, and by the end of the month, we will effect the handover of responsibility.

The mission continues to be unchanged, and that is to assure the assisted departure of American citizens and, if need be, the U.S. embassy and to assist in humanitarian activities within the means and capabilities that we currently have.

Beyond that, we have no additional instructions. I have designated Vice Admiral John Stufflebeem, commander of U.S. Sixth Fleet, to be the JTF commander. He will be called JTF Lebanon. He is currently aboard the USS Mount Whitney, the flagship of the Sixth Fleet, and is aiming towards the operational area.

All things are proceeding normally, and we await further developments and further mission taskings as they might come down.

So with that, I'll stop there, ladies and gentlemen, and I'll be happy to answer any questions you might have.

Yes, ma'am?

Q General, this year -- we've just gotten some figures about the opium production in Afghanistan, and it's shot up by about 40 percent. And it's one of the largest crops this year as it's been in -- since the takeover. Is there something that's being done wrong? Are you shifting tactics on this? Is there something else that can be done in order to counter what looks like a reversal?

GEN. JONES: Well, I think you're right in -- you're absolutely right in saying that narcotics is certainly one of the dominant problems facing Afghanistan in its quest for reconstruction.

It's not the only one, but it clearly is one that has to be addressed for the long-term recovery of Afghanistan.

The role of the military, whether it's the American military or NATO, is not to -- not to have a direct role in the sense that you will not see soldiers assigned to NATO or to OEF out doing crop -- poppy eradication, for example. But it is a problem that is -- that we've seen as a growing problem over the past few years. It certainly accounts for a significant portion of the economy of Afghanistan. It certainly cries out for more international focus.

Ninety percent of the products of Afghanistan are sold on the capital -- in the capitals of Europe, and obviously a lot of that money seems to be funneled back into the criminal element, the resurgence of the Taliban, and perhaps even al Qaeda or perhaps tribe- on-tribe warfare. But the logic that the cartels would be paying for -- would be funneling money into those organizations is inescapable because it creates a buffer between them and the international community, and the Karzai government, towards reform of of the narcotics. But it's a holistic problem that we have to do -- the international community has to do better in resolving.

I might -- I might say it's not the only one.

The others that are in need of more attention is the reform of the police, to include more police, better training, better equipping, and also salaries. Obviously, if the opposition can pay more money when than the government can, that's not exactly encouraging for the future. So we have to do better there.

We have to do better in more rapidly creating a system of judicial process that puts people behind bars that need to be behind bars.

And we also need, I think, a better articulation throughout the country of Afghanistan as to just what the future looks like so that the people can understand and have some hope for better days. And I think that we have the system in place to understand that we have to focus the international community much more effectively.

I don't believe that Afghanistan is -- that the success of Afghanistan is not predicated on a military success. I think the military success is certainly within our means. But if we just bring the military in and nothing follows it from the standpoint of reconstruction, a safe and secure environment, taking on the drug problems, taking on the crime, the corruption, taking on the efforts of al Qaeda and the Taliban where they might help, where they might be, that's what we need to do. And we're turning our attention, at least in terms of the NATO mission, to emphasizing to the international community that they simply have to be able to expand as quickly as we are.

There's no point in doing -- making the efforts that we're making in the southern region if it's not accompanied by some tangible evidence of change for the people. So this is a battle of -- a classic battle of hearts and minds. Two rules -- and an insurgency -- that I live by is don't make any more enemies than you've already got, and don't do anything that's not good for the people. And those are pretty simple rules, that if we follow that, I think we can be successful.

Q But as a follow-up, is there a growing role for the military, then? Would that be in training the police or training the Afghan forces to do this? What is the growing military role, or is there a growing military role in helping to eradicate?

GEN. JONES: Within NATO -- whereas two or three years ago, we had no role, we now have at least a supporting role in helping the authorities with intelligence and using our technologies to show them where the production increases to make sure that the roads are in fact used for peaceful purposes as opposed to transporting illicit goods.

So there is a measure of increase, but it's not an active role in the sense that soldiers are out there actively arresting people, which we're not, or eradicating crops, which we're not. But I think everybody -- I think the community understands -- and by that, I mean the international community understands that we have to have more success in the narcotics field, and we have to do that in the fairly near future.

Brenda -- Barbara?

Q Yes. You have responsibility for both Lebanon now and the global war on terror. Let me ask you your view. As you see -- as we've all seen Hezbollah now, literally within hours of the cease- fire, take on a leading role in the rebuilding in southern Lebanon, how could this be viewed as anything other -- this activity by Hezbollah -- as a blow in the war on terror?

What does it mean for the war on terror that they're now essentially taking a page out of the U.S. playbook; in other words, reconstruction assistance, moving in very quickly to help people?

GEN. JONES: That's a -- that's a very sophisticated question to a -- with many, many political overtones that go beyond my -- a little bit my job as currently defined. But I will say that anything that contributes to the destabilization of the -- of that part of the world, to suggest that the sovereignty of the Lebanese government, and therefore its armed forces, are questioned is not healthy for the outcome of the problem.

So if, in fact, Hezbollah does have access to finances -- that it does, in fact -- that they can use for reconstruction, it certainly sends a mixed message. It's got to be the government of Lebanon that controls Lebanon, and if we -- if too many mixed messages go out, then that -- that certainly confuses the issue.

Q Well, let me just ask you, within the framework of your job -- in other words, Lebanon and the global war on terror -- now that this is an existing entity for reconstruction in southern Lebanon, what's your assessment specifically on how the existence of Hezbollah as a reconstruction entity in Lebanon impacts the global war on terror? Is it a help? Is it -- should this be seen as a defeat in the global war on terror?

GEN. JONES: I don't see it as a defeat, and I don't know that it impacts the global war on terror per se.

Q Well, I say that -- let me interrupt -- because the president called Lebanon the third front in the global war on terror.

GEN. JONES: It's certainly -- it's certainly a front, and I think it's too early to -- it's just too early for me to say what the impact of that will be. We'll just have to wait and see. But I don't -- I wouldn't want to predict what the outcome of that would be. I just don't know. Too early.

Yes, sir.

Q General, are you fully confident NATO is going to be able to muster the troops and resources necessary to declare the NATO Response Force operational in October as planned? And where do you stand right now?

GEN. JONES: Declaring the NRF fully operational in capability is not only hinged to the full resourcing of any particular rotation. It also depends on our evaluation of the first-generation process, the training and certification process, the command-and-control structures.

Again, some of the capabilities that were tested during the operation in Cape Verde were NATO logistics. Do we have the logistics in place to support sizeable missions over a long range? That -- and that and in addition is NATO's will and ability to resource each rotation. That's what makes up the full operational capability.

On most of those scores, I am happy to say that we've done well. I continue to have questions about the willingness of nations to contribute forces to each rotation in the amount necessary to be confident that we can meet all of the mission sets that are assigned to the NATO Response Force.

And as I think I mentioned to you the last time, I think our -- what we're about now in NATO is to remove some of the disincentives that nations have in contributing forces to an organization like the NATO Response Force, and that means -- what that specifically means is that I -- and I've said this to the North Atlantic Council, so they've heard this from me -- is that I honestly think that we have to find more flexibility in how we fund our operations. Because right now, if you contribute forces to NATO's operations, generally you pay for those forces wherever NATO goes. And I think countries, some large, some small, are also apprehensive about the fact that if they give a sizeable capability to the NATO Response Force and it's activated, that they have to incur the costs for the full -- the full costs of that activation. We saw that problem develop -- manifest itself in our humanitarian mission in Pakistan.

The ability to commonly fund NRF operations in NATO has not been completely resolved. It's still an issue, and as long as it's an issue, I think that we will be faced with a significant disincentive for the NATO Response Force if it's not resolved.

Q Can I just follow up briefly? Are you confident NATO is going to be able to declare the response force operational in October as planned?

GEN. JONES: I'm not trying to be coy, but I'm charged with being the one who at least proposes that. And I still believe that we need to have some capabilities in this NRF7, this rotation, in order to fully be confident that I can look the alliance in the eye and say, "We're fully ready." But we're certainly much closer than we've ever been.

I think we're somewhere around 88 percent filled for NRF7, which is a pretty high number for NATO.

Yes, sir.

Q General, can you talk a little bit about the U.S. role in counterterrorism in Afghanistan? Who's going to be doing that? What is their role going to be? And what are they going to be doing? And who will they be operationally responsible to --

GEN. JONES: The U.S.?

Q Yeah, the U.S. counterterrorism piece.

GEN. JONES: Under the agreed upon command structure, the deputy chief of staff for operations, deputy commander for operations is a dual-hatted U.S. officer. On the one hand, he looks after OEF, and on the other hand, he looks after ISAF. And this is the -- not only the way to command and control the operation, but also to deconflict and to make sure that when OEF is operating in ISAF's area or vice versa, that we don't have -- that we have full coordination of the mission.

So that's essentially the point at which the two missions intersect, and we're able to keep track of who's doing what.

Q How many forces will that U.S. contingent be?

GEN. JONES: Well, I think that that's -- that hasn't been completely decided. I think the U.S. troop strength is somewhere around 20,000 total in the country. What it will be after transition to stage four is still being worked out, but it'll be robust enough to do the more kinetic mission of OEF, if you will, the more aggressive counterterrorism mission, and also to provide assistance to ISAF.

Q But that force will be the remainder of OEF?

GEN. JONES: Right.

Q I mean, there will be no other U.S. forces there falling under OEF? That will --

GEN. JONES: That'll be either OEF or ISAF. That's it.

Yes, sir.

Q General, you announced the EUCOM is taking over responsibility for Lebanon operations. I understand that Lebanon is in CENTCOM's AOR. But given that Cyprus is in EUCOM's AOR and given that CENTCOM is already fighting the two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, can you talk about why EUCOM didn't take the lead in the efforts to begin with?

GEN. JONES: Well, I think -- yes. A couple of years ago, the decision was made to withdrawal Lebanon and Syria from -- I'm sorry -- Lebanon and Jordan [sic Syria] from EUCOM, and so when the crisis started, Lebanon was a CENTCOM country. And so naturally it went towards CENTCOM and with EUCOM in support. But as the days have gone by -- and it looks like a -- certainly a mission that entails more than just the assisted evacuation and the political process is -- at the international level is taking its -- going through its motions to get to wherever its going to get to -- it became clear that the idea of one unified commander for the region made a lot of sense.

And I think the idea of letting CENTCOM focus on certainly its two major operations that are ongoing in Iraq and Afghanistan also made sense. And with EUCOM's ease of discussions with and location and experience with European countries, that that seemed to be some good logic for doing that. And that's why it was done.

Q Well, what role do you anticipate EUCOM having supporting peacekeeping troops from European countries?

GEN. JONES: I think we'll have to just wait and see because there's been no tasking and it's still too early. But I think the organization is right for whatever might happen in the future. So beyond a mission that as I've described it already, that's pretty much where we are.

Yes, ma'am?

Q If I could just follow up on Jeff's question, why transfer back to EUCOM now, then? What is it indicative it?

GEN. JONES: Well, if we didn't go for one unified commander, you'd have two unified commands, one for Israel, one for Lebanon, and a seam between the two, and it just doesn't work very well that way.

By the way, the unified command plan is not rigid. We regularly with CENTCOM, over the years that I've been there, we've worked in each other's AOR in Africa and with Turkish operations and things like that in the vicinity of Iraq, so this is not terribly difficult.

Q But if it had already been established under CENTCOM, then why transfer back to EUCOM now?

GEN. JONES: Well, one of the reasons is that CENTCOM is really pretty busy in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a lot of the troop- contributing nations to UNIFIL are most likely going to come from Europe. I think it was announced this morning that France has agreed to take the military lead. That's obviously a European -- we have the relationships with our European allies at EUCOM. And up until two years ago, Lebanon was in the EUCOM AOR, so we're still familiar with the Mediterranean and everything that goes on in it. And so that's really the reason.

Yeah?

Q Put your EUCOM hat back on in terms of relations with Israel. In the last week or two have you had any discussions with the Israeli military about capabilities or needs they may need now in light of the lessons they've learned from their fight with Hezbollah?

And more broadly, what are some early -- lessons learned is a bad way to look at this, but early messages from the conflict that NATO members need to take heed of in terms of the weapons used, the tactics from Hezbollah that may be replicated in other parts of your command?

GEN. JONES: With regard to the first portion of your question, obviously we've had close contact with the Israelis, who have been very open and forthcoming with us about what their plans are and what their activities are. And we've obviously, in the early days, deconflicted a lot of things with regard to their naval operations, and that helped us a great deal. So we've had good -- good, open communications.

With regard to preliminary lessons learned, obviously this is right on the heels of this particular fight so it's hard to answer that question with specificity. But I think with regard to NATO, I think that -- I think NATO countries are generally going to understand that what the United States and others have been talking about over these past few years about the threat of terrorism is daily -- and as each day, week, month goes by -- is proving itself to be a very, very serious global issue.

And this is going to, I think, help people understand that this is a problem that's going to be with us for a very long time. And much of the transformation that we're doing in NATO has to do with understanding that the reasons for which NATO was created in the 20th century -- the issue of collective defense -- really what we're talking about now is collective security, and not in the sense of the traditional NATO role of the 20th century, which is to be reactive in nature, but perhaps now it's time to be more proactive in nature in terms of participating in different parts of the world in order to prevent future conflicts, in order to make sure that another Afghanistan and Iraq doesn't materialize somewhere else.

And this is part of not only the physical transformation of NATO, but the cultural transformation as we address the issues -- contemporary issues in the 21st century; security of our critical infrastructures, security of the seas for commerce, for example. All of these things can be threatened if we're not careful. NATO is dealing with those one at a time.

Q Just one follow-up. In the earlier question, I was talking more not so much deconfliction conversations, but them coming to EUCOM saying, "We need X, Y, to help counter Hezbollah Katyushas or anti- tank missiles." Any aid kind of discussions?

GEN. JONES: We have -- yeah, we do have open discussions with Israel. Israel's one of the 93 [sic 92] countries that we have in the AOR, and so the -- and we've built these relations up for a number of years. So yes, we do talk about very specific things, and we serve as the intermediary, as the combatant commander said, to pass those onto our government here in Washington.

Yes, ma'am.

Q General, what can you tell us about in Afghanistan what happened today? I think there was some Afghan police or military that was killed, a bomb that was dropped.

GEN. JONES: I heard the report just as I was walking in here, so I regret that I don't have any details of a possible accident involving a bombing that may have killed up to 10 Afghan policemen, as I understand it. I regret that I don't have more information on that, but as soon as we have it, we'll get it to you.

Yes, ma'am.

Q General, staying on southern Afghanistan, you said -- where there's been 27 NATO casualties in the last couple of weeks -- you said you were hoping to have the situation more stable in next several months. Does that mean bringing in additional troops to that region or moving troops already in Afghanistan, similar to what we're seeing Baghdad, or refocusing in that area? Could you envision more troops being sent to southern Afghanistan in the next several months?

GEN. JONES: Let me clarify some totals for you because I didn't have my glasses on, and I looked at the wrong number on my card here. On 31 July, NATO took over responsibility for the southern part of Afghanistan, what we call stage three. Since then, we've had 11 NATO soldiers have lost their lives and another 50 have been wounded. We've had two non-battle deaths, and 35 non-battle injuries to NATO forces. So that's the -- that's an accurate figure.

The second part of your question was?

Q You said you hope to have that -- that region more stable in the next several months. Does that mean bringing in more additional troops or repositioning forces from throughout the country?

GEN. JONES: No. No. I think that, obviously, the commander of ISAF has within his authority the ability to move troops around as he sees fit. But we believe that the totals that we currently have planned are adequate and should be sufficient. I don't consider -- I don't see the need of asking nations for more contributions at this time. If there is a need for more forces, we do have some reserve forces that have been identified and that can -- that could, if called, go to Afghanistan. But we have seen no need to do that at this point.

Q And these are reserve NATO forces?

GEN. JONES: NATO forces.

Yes, sir?

Q You spoke of a resurgent Taliban. The Canadian military said that they've been surprised by the fierceness of the resistance of the Taliban. Are you surprised? And what does it say about the success of the mission at this point if in fact the Taliban seems to be surging, I mean, whether it's hearts and minds or taking them on militarily?

GEN. JONES: Well, as I've said before, I think that the violence in Afghanistan is not only the Taliban, but there are parts -- in this part of the country, in the south, I would say that the Taliban is in fact -- that is, this is -- has been a stronghold, and therefore probably most of our difficulties are associated with the Taliban.

But very clearly it must be said that the violence that the cartels can generate is also something that we have to worry about. The criminal elements that have been able to operate with impunity in part of the country that has not really received the benefits of the -- the influence of the central government by way of making sure that the police is effective and is not being paid for by other parties but is actually loyal to and working for the right side of the issue.

The efforts to systematically put progressive, honest, hardworking, risk-taking governors in the south is ongoing as we speak. And where we have a good governor and we have a good police chief and we have a -- the presence of the Afghan National Army, plus the coalition, that's the key to success. And where we're doing that, we're seeing almost immediate dividends.

But it is -- we are at this strategic moment. There's no question that we're going to impose our will and that that must be followed by some tangible evidence by the international community that we're in fact delivering on what we said the great effort under way in Afghanistan is all about.

Q If there is -- if they are testing the will of NATO, is there a reason for that? Like is -- does NATO have a different outlook, would you say, from -- as command, than the U.S. command would have?

GEN. JONES: We're dealing with a very intelligent enemy that obviously reads the newspapers and is well-attuned to what's going on in capitals around -- in Europe. And as you know, prior to the decision to expand into stage three of Afghanistan, there was a lot of discussion in the newspapers about whether NATO would have the will to fight, whether NATO can cope. There was some open discussions in the Dutch parliament, for example, that probably would cause a smart fighter to say: We ought to see if these guys really can have the capacity to sustain it, and if so, how long can they sustain it.

And so I think that this is what's happening. I think this is, again, that strategic moment where they're finding out that, yes, these forces that did arrive arrived as predicted in the numbers and the capabilities militarily that we advertised. That they don't have caveats; that is to say they don't have national restrictions on them that preclude them from taking it to the enemy when engaged. And that also are equally focused on the reconstruction. In other words, not just the warfight, but also what happens immediately after; if you free up a village, to make sure that you have a good police chief and you have a good governor that can come in there and you have the international community that can go in and build a school, turn on lights and bring electricity in and start the process of delivering on the promise that was made some years ago and that needs to be felt out in the rural areas of Afghanistan.

Yes, sir?

Q You mentioned that you expect EUCOM's involvement in Africa to increase in the next few years, decades. What will this look like?

GEN. JONES: I think it will probably look for a long time the way it looks right now. That is to say that we're certainly not looking to build new Ramstein Air Force Bases of the Cold War variety, although strategically they remain very important. But we believe that there will be footprints of small expeditionary forces, tasks organized and tailored to meet specific situations.

For example, in North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa, we're working with nine, 10 countries simultaneously to help their security forces have a better understanding of what might be going on in their territories, using our own national technical means to assist friendly governments in understanding that there might be things going on inside their borders that they're not even aware of, and to help them organize themselves in such a way that they can respond to those threats.

But also not just militarily, but to go in and, as I mentioned in the case of Liberia, to send a ship down to help clear the port to begin its economic recovery, and to assist in any way we can in concert with the entire interagency of the United States, in concert with organizations like the State Department USAID and other organizations that are out there doing things that are helpful in preventing future conflicts and in also helping Africans, in this case, help themselves to have a better future.

Yes, ma'am?

Q What role do you see for U.S. airlift in Lebanon? And also, what's your assessment of the prospects for NATO strategic airlift?

GEN. JONES: I think the -- obviously, if we're talking about a significant military force, airlift will play a fairly important role, not only in getting the force there but also sustaining it.

I would also think that in the case of Lebanon, sealift would be very important, and probably ultimately sealift, from a sustainability standpoint, would be probably be more important.

With regard to your question on NATO's strategic airlift, we're currently in a very exciting moment, where we hope to be able to sign up a number of nations to actually bring strategic airlift into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and hopefully we can do this by the Riga summit. The minimum military requirement that we've submitted from SHAPE has been for eight C-17-type aircraft, and we're hopeful that by the summit, we'll have commitments from nations to make a significant contribution to get to somewhere near that level or even less. But anything is better than zero, which is what we have right now.

Q With regard to Lebanon, how is the U.S. participation going to work, given that the U.S. isn't contributing its own forces?

GEN. JONES: I think we'll just have to wait and see what happens. As I mentioned, the mission that we currently have in EUCOM is fairly well-defined and limited. It doesn't mean it'll stay that way. We'll just have to wait and see how the international situation develops and what our national policy will be within the context of our future level of ambition. That's all I can tell you right now.

Yes, sir.

Q General, you said that the testing of NATO was predictable. But the tactics, the size of the attacks that it experienced are considerably different than what had been the case before. So I'm wondering, are you seeing forces coming in from -- the fighters coming in from outside of Afghanistan? Are you seeing any al Qaeda involvement in this? And are you seeing a migration of either tactics or fighters from Iraq?

GEN. JONES: The main source of concern has been the ability of fighters to go to and from Afghanistan to Pakistan and back and forth.

And we are working -- and we will be working more closely, as NATO takes responsibility for the mission, with the government of Pakistan to make sure that we do everything we can on both sides of the border to make that very, very difficult, certainly more difficult than it has been.

Generally, that is the main problem we're dealing with. We have not seen -- I don't think we've seen evidence of Iraqi fighters showing up in Afghanistan. Most of the forces that we're up against seem to be of the regional variety.

Q Are you seeing Arab fighters?

GEN. JONES: If we have, it's not been many, but there have been some.

Q Do you see any al Qaeda involvement?

GEN. JONES: Al Qaeda is still a factor but a much diminished factor in Afghanistan. The Taliban has -- of the two, the Taliban is the more dominant by far.

Yes, sir?

Q Sir, I just wanted to clarify something. You said airlift and sealift will have -- play an important role in the peacekeeping force. Were you talking about USAFE and 6th Fleet at all?

GEN. JONES: No, I was just talking about it as a concept. I mean, you have to move your forces there, and you have to sustain them. If you need to move forces quickly, obviously air is quicker. If you need to sustain them, sealift gives you the mass. And you know, if -- we'll just have to wait and see exactly who gets tasked to do that.

Yes, sir?

Q Sir, just to clarify, is NATO participating in that Tripartite Commission that the United -- or the coalition, Pakistan and Afghanistan are in?

GEN. JONES: Yes. Yes, and will be regularly.

Q Do you think --

GEN. JONES: We've always been at the table, but without a voice. And now we have -- now we'll have the voice.

Sir?

Q General, with the U.N. requiring some period of time to get a force together for southern Lebanon, would that be an appropriate mission for a NATO reaction force if NATO were asked? Has there been any discussion? And is the force ready, if it were needed?

GEN. JONES: Well, classically, the -- if you analyze the situation, the NATO Response Force is ideally organized, trained and equipped toward that kind of mission.

It's essentially a 25,000-man force of naval, land, air and special operations forces all under one commander. It's been certified, so it sits there and it's ready or the uses in which it's intended. This could cover, as I said, everything from humanitarian assistance to forcible entry.

But it has -- I want to also state clearly, so there's no misunderstanding, that NATO has not been asked nor are there any plans under way that I know of right now to use the NATO response force either in whole or in part.

The other capability that the NRF brings is the ability to task organize packages. So you can do a mission analysis. If it's a humanitarian mission, you can organize in a certain way. If it's more combat-related, you can organize in a certain way. If it's naval in character, you can be naval heavy. And you can shift and mix and match capabilities. So it's a great military tool. It's a force multiplier and it's a great asset for NATO. But we have to wait until we're asked to use it.

Q If it's ready and it's the right type of force, why hasn't it been asked to get involved at least as a bridging force until the U.N. is ready?

GEN. JONES: As I said, we have to be asked. And I've not been -- I've received no instructions from the national -- from the North Atlantic Council, and I don't believe the North Atlantic Council has been asked by any other agency yet. I don't know why.

Sir?

Q Sir, you're facing growing violence levels from the cartels and the criminal elements in Afghanistan. How do you counter that without actively getting or being proactive in law enforcement?

GEN. JONES: I think that's -- I mean, that's the nub of the problem here, you know. Essentially it's a question of -- I think -- well, it's important that the Karzai government be the one that take on the internal problems in the country to the extent that it can. But certainly under the U.K. lead for the narcotics campaign, the international community has got to be successful in taking this on. but in a very broad campaign that not only addresses the problem inside the country but also the problem of the fact that the goods are delivered to European capitals, and 90 percent of the money, as I said, 90 percent of it is sold in Europe and used to finance at least some part of the terrorist organizations that are doing battle with us in Afghanistan.

But to get back to another question about the ferocity and the ability of the opposition, to sustain this combat means that they're getting money, and they're getting -- they're able to sustain themselves. And I'm quite sure that some of that's coming from the narcotics trade, and that's worrisome. And we have to do a better job in the near future of fighting that particular problem in Afghanistan.

Q General, can I ask you a quick question, a follow-up on the strategic airlift question? You said this is an exciting time at NATO. Well, tomorrow, Boeing is going to be informing all of its subcontractors that it's going to start shutting down the line because it's not getting any more U.S. orders. By '09, the line could shut. How does that action complicate this exciting time in NATO in terms of building its capability you don't have right now?

GEN. JONES: Well, obviously, I -- you have access to U.S. -- a U.S. announcement with regard to Boeing that I don't have, so I don't know that. I hope it certainly doesn't affect the ability of -- if, in fact, the alliance chooses to go in this direction -- and I think we will know that probably in September. So we're not talking about a long period of time. And I know that allies are at work, working on this consortium of like-minded nations to figure out the funding and how this whole thing would work.

But the intent is that they be NATO airplanes, they will have NATO markings and they will be obviously available to the nations that pay for them also when NATO's not using them for its own operational uses.

Q Like the AWACS right now, the same model?.

GEN. JONES: Exactly, yeah. And they would be under the force command and control.

Q Okay. Well, why not have C-17s that fly --

GEN. JONES: Well, I mean, I -- I hope we do.

Ladies and gentlemen, may I just end here, and thank you very much for your attention. It's been a great pleasure to be with you.

Thank you so much.

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