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NATO 'Reinventing' Itself, General Says

By Steven Donald Smith
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 8, 2006 – The common military defense principle that spawned NATO remains valid, but the alliance is now also engaged in security operations to deal with new 21st century threats, the U.S. general in command of the alliance's military forces said yesterday.

"By establishing new capabilities and undertaking nontraditional missions, NATO is increasingly able to better address the challenges of the new security environment," Marine Gen. James L. Jones, NATO's supreme allied commander in Europe, said in remarks prepared for delivery to the Senate Armed Services Committee. "(NATO) is making significant progress and is in the midst of the most fundamental physical and philosophical transformations in its history."

The changing security landscape around the world also reaffirms the importance of preserving the traditional transatlantic alliance, Jones said.

The general said the alliance has assumed a more active leadership role in various ongoing security operations, such as training Iraqi security forces, aiding the African Union mission in Sudan, providing security assistance in Afghanistan, and continuing to stabilize the Balkans. In addition, the alliance has participated in a number of humanitarian missions, like responding in 2005 to the victims of Hurricane Katrina and the Pakistan earthquake.

As NATO assumes these increased noncombat responsibilities, its force levels will surpass those of the coalition in Afghanistan and will constitute the largest ground operation in alliance history, Jones said.

He said the situation in the Balkans was probably NATO's first test in the security realm. "The alliance has successfully set the conditions in the region for the peaceful transition to democratic institutions and is making progress toward government-controlled and -reformed militaries," he said.

The NATO Response Force, which is scheduled to reach full operational capability in October, will further enable the alliance to respond to any future crises, Jones said. "The NRF will be supported by five capability 'pillars' of strategic lift, advanced planning and intelligence fusion, integrated logistics, deployable communications and information systems, and full force generation," he said.

The general explained that the alliance was formerly "anchored" to a common defense model in order to deter the enormous conventional military threat posed by the Soviet Union, but must now deal with a multitude of issues.

"Potential 'anchor points' include expanding NATO operations in support of combating terrorism; enhancing security, stability and reconstruction activities; increasing involvement in critical infrastructure security; ensuring the flow of energy to markets and consumers by assuring safe and secure access to sources; and engaging in a more active role in preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and corresponding consequence management actions," he said.

Jones said political and military decision making procedures, as well as resourcing and funding issues also are being addressed. Reforms in these areas must be achieved in order to ensure the alliance can fully meet all future threats, he said.

"NATO is in the process of reinventing itself to meet the new challenges of the 21st century," Jones said. "As we look to the future, it is possible to conclude that NATO's most important days and most significant contributions still lie in the certainty of a challenging future."

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Gen. James L. Jones

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