Commanders Discuss Operational Issues at House Hearing
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Mar. 14, 2008 The senior military leaders of U.S. European Command, U.S. Southern Command and U.S. Africa Command discussed issues related to their areas of operation during testimony before a House panel here yesterday.
Supporting the global war against terrorism is his top priority, Army Gen. Bantz J. Craddock, NATO’s supreme allied commander for Europe and European Command chief, told House Armed Services Committee members.
However, “EUCOM is also focused on sustaining Europe as a global partner and furthering U.S. security relationships,” Craddock pointed out. Command objectives in this sphere, he explained, include “promoting lasting security and stability, maintaining the ability to employ the full range of capabilities across the spectrum of conflict, and fostering the growth of partner nation capacity and capability.”
Servicemembers assigned to EUCOM routinely deploy in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Craddock said, while other troops “are included in our global force pool and stand available for (other) missions as required.”
From his NATO perspective, Craddock told the committee that nearly 50,000 NATO-aligned troops are in Afghanistan, including about 19,000 U.S. servicemembers.
“NATO remains committed to collective security and, increasingly, to a broader and more comprehensive view of security in an interdependent world,” Craddock said.
The alliance “has taken the lead for security and stability in Afghanistan,” Craddock reported. More than 47,000 International Security Assistance Force troops now deployed there are assisting Afghan forces in the fight against Taliban insurgents, he said.
European Command also supports efforts to keep the peace in newly independent Kosovo, Craddock said. U.S. forces make up about 10 percent of the 16,000 international troops in Kosovo, he noted.
Craddock said his organization also works closely with U.S. Africa Command, which was stood up at Kelly Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany, on Oct. 1. European Command previously had responsibility for several African nations.
U.S. Southern Command’s area of responsibility includes all of Latin America and parts of the Caribbean. SOUTHCOM chief Navy Adm. James Stavridis described the region as a “vibrant and diverse part of the world” where $1.2 trillion worth of U.S. economic trade is transacted.
Yet, SOUTHCOM’s area of responsibility also includes challenges, Stavridis said.
“There are enormous challenges, starting with poverty, but also drugs,” the four-star admiral noted. Regional terrorists, including the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as FARC, increasingly rely on narcotics trafficking as a way to raise funds, he said.
Stavridis also sees “the beginnings of Islamic radical terrorism” in some parts of his area of responsibility.
On the Caribbean watch, Cuba remains the sole dictatorship in the Americas, Stavridis said, while noting Haiti “continues to be a nation that is trying to overcome extreme challenges of poverty.”
The admiral also cited recent tensions caused by a border dispute between Colombia and its neighbors Venezuela and Ecuador. Venezuela and Ecuador accused Colombia of violating their sovereignty during recent Colombian military operations that attacked terrorists operating along the countries’ common borders.
“Thankfully, those (tensions) appear to be diminished,” Stavridis said.
Reporting on AFRICOM affairs, Army Gen. William E. “Kip” Ward said the command’s creation “signals a new focus on United States’ strategic interests for Africa and its island nations.”
AFRICOM will work with its partners on the African continent “to help create a secure and encouraging future” for all, Ward said.
“Our intent is to enable them to provide for their own security,” Ward explained. Other U.S. agencies in addition to the Defense Department are involved in this endeavor, Ward continued, including the State Department’s Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistance program.
ACOTA “has helped prepare thousands of African military personnel for international peacekeeping operations,” Ward pointed out. He said ACOTA-trained forces participate in U.N.- and African Union-sponsored peacekeeping missions in Darfur, Somalia and other areas of conflict.
U.S. soldiers and Marines now provide military training to African peacekeepers and professional development at the individual and unit level, Ward said, while the U.S. Air Force contributes airlift and logistical support.
“We also provide special operations counterterrorism training teams to strengthen national capabilities and enhance multinational cooperation,” Ward added.
U.S. military forces also support numerous humanitarian missions in Africa, Ward said, in concert with the State Department’s U.S. Agency for International Development.
In addition, the U.S. Navy and the Coast Guard “are helping African nations increase their maritime safety and security through training activities and programs that enhance maritime awareness,” Ward pointed out.
Ward’s face-to-face meetings with African military and political leaders “have made it clear that they want these programs to continue,” the four-star general said.
“We will sustain our current efforts, and through Africa Command, we will improve military programs through our strategy of active security” to prevent conflict, Ward said.