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Partnerships Hold Key to Success in Europe, Beyond, General Says

By Jason Tudor
Special to American Forces Press Service

GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany, April 15, 2009 – Rare will be the occasion when the U.S. military will operate by itself. Instead, it will rely on partnerships with other nations going forward, the U.S. Army in Europe’s top officer said here today.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Army Gen. Carter F. Ham, commander of U.S. Army Europe, emphasizes international partnerships as being a key element in military operations in a speech to students at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, April 15, 2009. Marshall Center photo by Jason Tudor

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Gen. Carter F. Ham, commander of U.S. Army Europe and 7th Army, told about 150 students at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies that the United States taking action unilaterally would be a “highly unusual” circumstance.

“Building partner capacities” is one of the tenets of how the Army operates in Europe and beyond going forward, the general said, talking about operations and conditions across the theater.

U.S. forces operate with 41 countries in Afghanistan, 32 countries in Kosovo and 25 in Bosnia.

“We will go forward with our allies and partners, developing common tactics, procedures and policies,” Ham said. “We do it because we cannot conduct operations as a single nation any longer.”

The U.S. Army presence in Europe is growing smaller, slashed from a Cold War high of 200,000 to a current size of about 70,000 soldiers. Ham indicated the goal for troops in Europe is about 32,000, which he said presents numerous challenges. Those include NATO Article 5, which says an armed attack on one member nation is an armed attack on all; operations in Iraq and Afghanistan; activity in the Balkans; theater security cooperation; and training exercises in Europe.

“The challenge is this: How I can accomplish the mission with less people and capability while operating with the same capacity?” Ham said. “We’re concerned about sustaining the level of commitment to joint exercises throughout the theater. And we think we can sustain it by building partner capacity.”

In building partnerships, the 33-year Army veteran said, the relationship between the United States and other countries is not senior to junior. “That’s just not the case,” he said. “We will learn as much from our partners as they will learn from us.”

When asked about the “why” of building partnerships, Ham offered three reasons.

First, he said, “the more nations involved, the more legitimacy it has, along with involvement from organizations like the United Nations.”

The second is geographic proximity. “Some nations are very difficult to access,” Ham said. “For example, we rely on Afghanistan’s surrounding neighbors for support.”

Third, as other nations are willing and able to contribute, he said, “that means less U.S. personnel that have to be part of that fight.”

In speaking with the students gathered from 45 countries such as Afghanistan, France, Ukraine and others, Ham talked about keys to success during disputes and discussed the role a military plays in the plan.

“In most cases, the military is an essential, but nondecisive, aspect to success,” he said. “It is the rare circumstance where the military is the decisive instrument.”

In building partnerships, there will be pitfalls, Ham acknowledged. For instance, he said, U.S. and partner militaries work “great” on an operational level, but face challenges on the tactical level. Exercises and education are keys to success, he said, but he added that time, money and resources are precious because of war and struggling economies.

“We have to be persistent about developing tactical relationships,” he said. “There are great challenges, but the U.S. is not alone.”

(Jason Tudor works in the George C. Marshall Center public affairs office.)

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Army Gen. Carter F. Ham

Related Sites:
U.S. Army Europe and 7th Army
George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies

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