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Hagel: Partnerships Lay Groundwork for Contingency Responses

By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 28, 2013 – Established military and diplomatic partnerships set the tone when it comes time to defend international allies, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said today.

The recent rapprochement between NATO member Turkey and major non-NATO ally Israel was critically important to the region, Hagel said during a joint Pentagon press conference with Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“It does affect Syria,” he said. “It does affect the neighbors in developing more confidence, I would suspect, among the neighbors in that area that Turkey and Israel will once again begin working together on some of these common interests.”

On Wednesday, NATO announced the appointment of Swedish scientist Ake Sellstrom to lead a commission examining whether Syrian President Bashar Assad used chemical weapons in Syria.

“He does possess chemical weapons,” Hagel said. “It is dangerous. It is real. And we've got to deal with that eventuality and how we would respond to it.”

The take-away is that the United States is working with its international partners, through NATO and other alliances, to address the complex challenge posed by Syria, Dempsey said.

“We … have collaborative planning efforts underway with each of them, not just uniquely for the possibility of chemicals, but also for other eventualities,” he said. Those include the loss of control of heavy air defense weapons, refugee or humanitarian assistance requirements, and the defense of Turkey and Jordan, Dempsey added.

“So we've got any number of contingency plans. And each of them -- each of them at some level rely upon regional partners to help us figure this out,” he noted.

Addressing tensions elsewhere in the world, Hagel said the NATO agreement made last summer in Chicago is guiding the drawdown in Afghanistan, exactly as intended. The transition was designed to be an orderly, step-by-step process, he said, and each interim agreement “gets us to eventually where we all want to go, a peaceful transition, a transition that will hopefully put Afghanistan in a position to have a peaceful, prosperous future.”

“It's jaggedy, raggedy, not easy, up and down, but we're on track,” Hagel said. “Afghanistan's a sovereign nation. And we want them to be a strong sovereign nation with a significant future.”

Other countries with interests in regions where the U.S. has strategic interests -- like the Asia-Pacific -- can’t be ignored, Hagel said. Regional interests must be factored into long-term relationships, he said.

“The key to relationships with great powers is common interest. You anchor relationships around common interests. You don't start with your differences. And that's what we'll continue to do,” Hagel said.

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Chuck Hagel
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey

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