DoD News Briefing with Gen. Craddock from the Pentagon
MODERATOR: Good afternoon and welcome, and thank you for joining us. It's my pleasure to introduce somebody that really, to this crowd right here but -- doesn't need an introduction but perhaps to the other broader audience out there -- General John Craddock, the commander of United States European Command is in town and has offered to spend some time with you to give you kind of a brief overview of what the command's been doing and take some questions.
And so with that, let me turn it over to General Craddock. Thank you, sir, for joining us today.
GEN. CRADDOCK: Good to be here. I say that sincerely. (Light laughter.) Look, I'm going to be here today in my NATO hat as the SACEUR; however, as you know, I wear a EUCOM hat, so I can put it on also. But primarily my comments are going to deal with NATO, particularly in Afghanistan. That's job one for NATO. So let me, if I could, give you a little overview here, and then I'll take some questions.
This month, as you probably know, marks one year since NATO, ISAF, assumed total control for security and stability in Afghanistan. The past few months, you have probably watched closely, as I have -- and the security situation has been difficult, particularly in the southern part and eastern parts of the country, where, as we have seen, we've been forced to conduct continuous military action to counter those who want to bring reconstruction and development of Afghanistan to a halt.
I think that despite this, I remain convinced NATO and the international community is going to continue to deliver significant improvements to the quality of life of the Afghan people. We're going to do this through a comprehensive approach. Let me give you what I think are the six keys here, key elements, that we've got to focus on -- we, NATO, ISAF, in conjunction then with other organizations -- on this comprehensive approach.
First, most importantly we have to do more to train and equip the Afghan national army and secondarily the Afghan national security forces, which means the police, but NATO's task right now is the Army. We've got to put an Afghan face on security. A survey by the Asia Foundation found that nearly 90 percent of the Afghan people interviewed trust the Afghan national army. And we believe that it's well on its way to reaching the current end strength of about 70,000 by 2010. And that means filled, trained, equipped, competent leadership, capable of operating on their own.
According to the minister of defense, the retention rates now are over 50 percent, and that's a steady improvement from days past. And I think it's accurate to say that they are indeed valuable partners in our operations. I've been there recently. Every commander tells me he wants more of those soldiers with him, with his unit, to conduct operations. They are eager to assume responsibility; they want to take the lead.
Again, I think it -- for sure the greatest single contribution is the improvement in the Afghan national army. We're going to do more, building OMLTs, Operational Mentoring and Liaison Teams, to help work with those battalions. That's much like the U.S. embedded training teams. And we think again that by doing this will be the fastest road to direct security by the Afghans, which is essential for this reconstruction and development work.
Second element: We must sustain NATO's commitment to Afghanistan. We are militarily prevailing. We routinely defeat these opposition militant forces, the Taliban, in combat actions. And that's why they have turned and chosen to adopt alternative strategies and tactics, those tactics of indiscriminate roadside bombings and suicide attacks, terrorist tactics if you will, that are taking a heavy toll on the very population they claim to represent: the civilians.
We've got to maintain our military effort and support because we know, at the end, they cannot win without the support of the people. And we've got to convince the Afghan people that the Taliban era of fear and intimidation is over. We've made progress in lifting the caveats and restrictions that some NATO countries come in with their forces. We've substantially increased our overall troop strength.
ISAF now is just under 40,000 soldiers; boots on the ground, if you will.
Now, let me say that I definitely appreciate the continued support and vital contributions made by the 37 nations that make up the ISAF force, but we have yet to fully realize the complete filling of our agreed statement of requirements, the numbers of troops and organizations and units we need on the ground. We're still short some key capabilities and enablers. And I believe each nation has its own internal issues it must address, but a completely resourced force list, statement of requirements, will send a clear message to our adversary and to the Afghan people that we are committed to achieving success.
Third, the international community as a whole must increase the development efforts. We continue to stress that success in Afghanistan will never be measured by military victory. Overall success depends on offering a better way of life for the Afghan people. And that means providing them jobs, electricity, roads, schools and health care, all vital to success.
The Provincial Reconstruction Teams, the PRTs, that we have there can accomplish quick impact projects. They build, for example, water wells. Medical support is provided. They deliver humanitarian aid where needed in cases of flooding and other types of support. But at the end of the day, it's the long-term investment and development by the international community, the creation of jobs and long-term opportunity, that will make the real difference.
My fourth point is we must continue to engage with Pakistan. NATO, for its part, already has quite extensive military-to-military cooperation with Pakistan. And it is improving every day. I recently saw some of these positive outcomes and this cooperation when I visited a forward operating base on the border with Pakistan two weeks ago. Some of those soldiers there, U.S. soldiers, explained in detail how they've noticed a decrease in border crossings by these opposition militant forces due to their joint efforts with the Pakistani military forces across the border.
However, it's true that in many parts of the Afghan-Pakistan border region there continues to be an offering of sanctuary for the insurgents, and as long as that sanctuary exists, our task will remain more difficult. That's why it's so important for Pakistan to secure and stabilize the territory along their border with Afghanistan.
My fifth point, the need to counter the growth of narcotics in Afghanistan.
While is not a primary role or responsibility for NATO and its forces, we must find ways to impact all of the pillars that support this narco-terrorism problem.
We can and do provide support to the Afghan counternarcotics forces by sharing information and intelligence with them, by providing logistical support within our means and capabilities, and when needed, we provided in extremis support to, if you will, bail them out of tough situations.
Much attention is focused on the eradication. Simply focusing on eradication only leads to disaffection by the element that benefits the least from the narcotics trade, the farmers. It's my belief that for long-term success, you must address all the areas that contribute to this complex problem. And that's not only the eradication, but it's the laboratories that process it, it's the traffickers that move it, and it's the kingpins, if you will, the leadership of those cells and operational linkages, that benefit the most from the money that's being made. So we've got to keep working within our authorities in NATO to do that and then look for continued opportunities in the future.
My last point:
We've got to have -- continue to stress and focus on development and maturation of a comprehensive approach. Now, what I mean by this is the coordinated application of military and civilian instruments, including those civil instruments that are the responsibility of other organizations, such as the United Nations, the World Bank, nongovernmental organizations, international organizations, all that are in Afghanistan and working daily, and oftentimes very effective, but we must organize, integrate and cooperate those efforts to achieve greater effects.
Like NATO, all these organizations are making great contributions, but I think we still haven't done enough to bring together and integrate all those efforts. And we must do more to enhance the effectiveness and the efficiency of those organizations.
And I think, lastly, in this area, comprehensive approach, most of all it's important that we focus again on the Afghan government, Afghan ownership, with the right relations in place between that government and then these organizations, the U.N., NATO, the EU, who now is into the police training arena, and these other international actors will help us to better find and deliver good solutions for Afghanistan.
The effective application of this comprehensive approach by the whole of the international community is the means to enable peace in Afghanistan, a country and a people, as you know, that has been in conflict for more than three decades.
So with that, let me close, and I will take your questions.
Q Sir, can you give us an update on the requirements that are still unfilled? We know about the trainers; there's also the air bridging force in Kandahar. Have any of the NATO allies come -- stepped forward as though they have an option for replacing that U.S. bridging force in Kandahar, and are there more requirements that have gone unfilled -- manpower requirements that have gone unfilled besides the trainers?
GEN. CRADDOCK: The trainers are on the Combined Joint Statement of Requirements. My first priority of the things that are not filled there is to get the trainers filled, the OMLTs, if you will, the Mentoring and Liaison Teams; critical that the Afghan army is producing battalions faster than we can form and field OMLTs, so these battalions go out without their mentoring team; about 19 to 20 soldiers who provide mentoring, who provide some communication linkages, who can call for fire if they get in a tough situation, who can call for casualty evacuation. They are the enabler. So we've got to work through that.
We have recently -- oh, I guess, in mid-summer we probably had from 21 to about another 12 or 13 promises to form teams. They are in process right now. We have now another 10 beyond that that is in some mode here, if you will, of "we think we can, we want to try," and we're in negotiation to try to get them to commit and declare. So we think we've got about another 25 percent, 34, 35, and we may have another 25 percent more than that in the making. So there's some progress.
With regard to the troop list, these are the units, I don't want to get into numbers.
I -- the situation's fluid. When I took over last December as SACEUR, in January, I thought it was time to let's look at the CJSOR, because it was about 10 months old. And we looked at it and revised it.
Now, we've come since February, if you will, another eight months or so -- we're getting close -- time to look at it again. I've tasked my subordinate commanders down to COM ISAF -- give me your new estimate. That is coming back up to me now. I think it'll be a little different. There are some keys -- no change -- OMLTs, helicopters, the enablers -- both lift rotary wing and lift fixed wing are going to be at the top of the list.
Now, you asked about the bridging unit, the helicopters. Right now we have had no nation step forward to commit helicopters to replace that bridging unit. There is an action moving in NATO right now to lease lift capability, much like is done by the U.S. forces in Regional Command East, so that is in process. And barring nations stepping forward, that'll be the way we'll proceed.
Q Did Pakistan come forward with an option for helicopters there?
GEN. CRADDOCK: I'm not aware of that, no.
Okay. Question here.
Q General, I understand that in the summer, European Command produced a report examining whether or not you have sufficient troops to complete its missions. Further, I understand this report looked at projected end strength increases in the Army and Marine Corps to determine whether or not any of these troops could be added to European Command. Can you say anything about this report?
GEN. CRADDOCK: Okay. Let me take my NATO hat off and put on my EUCOM hat. We did a study in EUCOM. I told the staff, I want you to study whether or not we have adequate capability to accomplish the tasks we've been assigned by the department; we did that. The result was it appears we do not. I then sent a recommendation to the Secretary of Defense. It has been discussed. We have talked about it. That has yet to be acted on, so that is still a work in progress. We continue to refine the issues, if you will, and the rationales and the capabilities we have and the whys and why nots of what we think we should have.
With regard to growing up the Marines and the Army, that's a Title X issue. I'm not a Title -- that's Services, and I'd have to defer to them. I'm not -- I'm on a -- do I have enough to do my mission as opposed to the growth of the services.
Yeah, back here.
Q Another EUCOM question. Can you say whether there has been a decision on whether to relocate the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division based in Schweinfurt, and the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division based in Baumholder?
GEN. CRADDOCK: No, I can't. That would be a(n) Army Component -- Army Service Component Command, U.S. Army Europe decision -- they have to come to me. They have not come to me with that option at this point, so I don't know of any decision.
Q I know that Iraq's not in your area of responsibility, but Turkey is. So if you could put your NATO hat back on again, and as the supreme commander, can you explain to us a little bit about what's happening along the Iraq -- help us understand what's going on along the Iraq-Turkish border, how important that is to the U.S. military. And as the NATO commander, what role can you play in discouraging Turkish intervention in northern Iraq?
GEN. CRADDOCK: Well, it's -- yes and no. I can put on both hats, because Turkey's in NATO, okay, and it's in the European Command area of responsibility.
The Turk-Iraq border -- I don't think it's any secret that there's a problem there between insurgents, the PKK -- I think that's the term they're called today -- using northern Iraq as a safe haven. And the Turks then get attacked across the border, and that's the issue. The contentious issue is, where are these people at any one time? And they are a terrorist organization is my understanding; they've been labeled as such at least by the Turks.
So there's a problem there, obviously in sovereignty and domain. And we have been, as you know, I think, Central Command for some time dealing with that.
Now, let me draw back. That's the issue on the border. What does it mean to European Command, and what does it mean to NATO?
One, Turkey is a valued ally in NATO. There's no doubt about it. In the shoulder there in the south, they're very important, have been for years. We have great relations. We have CAOC, Combined Air Operations Center. We've got a component command in Turkey. So we value that relationship greatly, and we want to see those good relations continue in the future.
From my European Command hat, even though -- you're right, I don't have Iraq in my area of responsibility -- the enablers -- many -- much supply logistics flows through Turkey into Iraq. So from that perspective, EUCOM has an oversight responsibility as from the United States, either an air bridge or a sea movement comes through, oftentimes -- most often, it's going to come into Iraq and then down through the northern part of Iraq to forces and then distributed to them.
So we've got some responsibilities: one, to ensure that that line of communication is still viable. And we do that again with our security cooperation folks that are in Turkey. And then secondly, I think, from a NATO perspective, we want to sustain the strong partnership on our southeastern corner there with Turkey, which we have valued for years.
Q So as NATO commander, do you have any ability to influence Turkey's actions in terms of Iraq?
GEN. CRADDOCK: I won't say in terms of Iraq. I will say that I talk with my counterparts, military leaders in Turkey, frequently, and we discuss issues about their border. And I'll leave it at that.
Q (Off mike) -- support military action against the PKK? Since Turkey is a NATO ally and PKK is a terrorist organization, will NATO support those military actions?
GEN. CRADDOCK: That's a political decision. I will leave that to the North Atlantic Council.
Q Can I follow up on missile defense?
As the head of NATO, you're dealing with European allies who are very concerned about the missile shield that the U.S. is proposing, and that Russia's concerned about, for the Czech Republic and Poland. What are NATO allies saying about that? As the head of NATO, do you support the missile shield that's suggested for the Czech Republic and Poland?
GEN. CRADDOCK: Well, I'm not the head of NATO. I'm the supreme allied commander, so I command Allied Command operations. The secretary-general is the head of NATO, and that's a political issue.
I will say that the secretary-general has said that after receiving the information, the NATO allies supported the threat assessment. That was the statement he made early summer. I think that's a pretty specific statement.
Secondly the NATO effort has been focused on short-and- intermediate-range air defense capability. I believe now the notion is that NATO wants to better understand the long-range, intermediate ballistic missile capability, air defense capability, that the U.S. is talking about, and see how there could be an integrated approach to that. I think that's just starting. That needs to mature and develop, and the experts need to talk, see if that can happen. So from a military perspective, I think, any ability to secure NATO forces and NATO country populations from air threats is a good thing. So I think it would be supported.
Q (Off mike) -- from other military commanders within NATO who report to you --
GEN. CRADDOCK: About?
Q -- about placing a missile shield in the Czech Republic and Poland?
GEN. CRADDOCK: No, I'm not hearing any strong concerns.
Q (Off mike) -- talk about Russia for a minute. One specific question: General, specifically there's been talk of these renewed drills, with the Bear bombers buzzing around international airspace not far from Norway and elsewhere. Is that a cause of concern? Or why do you suppose the Russians are up to this? What do you think's going on?
And in more broadly, what do you see happening in terms of the Russian military? There's been talk about a pretty swift increase in military spending over the last few years. What has that bought them? What's the status of the Russian military?
GEN. CRADDOCK: You know, I can't speak for others on the Russian bomber flights here recently. Why they're doing it, I don't know. I would -- I could speculate but I don't want to do that. That's probably not helpful.
I think that first of all, there's been some, as we know, reinvestment from the decline of the Russian military capability throughout the '90s, with the windfall oil profits, into the military today. Now, obviously there's been some reinvestment in their strategic bomber capability because now, they're flying again. Is it cause for concern? I don't know that it's concern. I think it's noteworthy.
We watch it, as we always do. The nations in those flightpaths, where those bombers are coming by, obviously watch for this interdiction of their airspace. Fair enough but at this point, I don't see it as threatening at all.
Now, the military growth overall: Again an area that is worth watching and noteworthy. I think that again there's been -- I don't know that if it's a rebuilding or it's trying to delay, stop and hold firm on what I see as the downsizing and less capable force that throughout the '90s dropped in capacity and capability. So I think there's some rebuilding going on.
I don't know where and how far it's going yet. I don't have that visibility if you will. But the key here is that we're still doing exercises with the Russians. We still talk to the Russian military, both from a NATO and a EUCOM perspective, on a regular basis.
We want to continue to do that. And as we do that, obviously, we encourage and engage both Russian forces, U.S. forces and NATO forces to learn more about each other and to interoperate. So from that perspective, I'm not concerned, because I think we generally are continuing to do that. They just recently passed a NATO status-of- forces agreement, which we've been wanting for a long time. That makes exercises and this movement back and forth much easier. So we're grateful for that.
Q How unusual were those flights. I mean, is that the kind of thing that they really hadn't been doing since the Cold War?
GEN. CRADDOCK: Well, I don't know if you'd say since the Cold War. It hadn't been done, I think, since the '90s, after, probably, the Cold War was over. But we hadn't seen it in a few years. So if that's your moniker of "unusual," then it would be. But "unusual" is in the eye of the beholder. We just hadn't seen it for a while.
General, the Russians have also said that they're going to suspend participation in the CFE Treaty in December unless NATO -- you know, NATO countries ratify it. What would be the practical implications of that? What would that allow the Russians to do in terms of moving forces in that area? And how much of a concern is it to you that they could do that without -- (off mike)?
GEN. CRADDOCK: Right now there's a lot of political rhetoric out there as to what's been said and not said, what's been reported and what's been said. I don't want to speculate on what does it mean. The fact is that there was an adaptable treaty that has not been ratified that they want ratified by NATO nations. There's now some discussion as to what does that really mean, and did then the Russians follow through in promises they made in NATO summit. So these are the political issues that must be resolved.
And I don't want to discuss what it would mean, because then I get into speculation that's not going to be helpful. I have not participated in those political discussions. This morning the North Atlantic Council was here, that was discussed a bit when we were at the State Department, and that will be worked through the political channels right now.
Q Sir, if I could, could I ask you about Kosovo? We sometimes forget that we have troops there. I guess there's a change of command coming up shortly. There's elections coming up in Kosovo. And there are reports of paramilitary sort of organizations in Kosovo along the border with Serbia.
Can you just give us a picture of what's going on in the province?
GEN. CRADDOCK: Well, it's probably my number two issue every day in terms of what I focus on in NATO. Indeed a change of U.S. multinational task force here shortly, so that's obviously about 1,600 soldiers go in, National Guard, well-trained, ready to take the mission.
Okay. Province writ large. 17 November or so is the target date for elections. I think right now I would tell you that in Kosovo there is uncertainty. I've been there recently. I've talked to the political leaders and have gotten out and had a chance to, then, see some things throughout the province -- and with a little bit of input from soldiers and folks on the ground who every day sense this. There's impatience because they want a decision. The Ahtisaari proposal, obviously, did not achieve the intended effect, so now we're into a troika. I think that December will be a telling time, and I think that there is some angst right now in Kosovo and impatience and uncertainty.
And that all depends on where you are, but again, my judgment is, down at the man-on-the-street, woman-on-the-street level, it's about jobs and it's about employment and it's about the economy, and it's about getting electricity every day because that's a terrible situation right now. They've had a drought, and water is of concern. Those are the things that are the front-burner issues for the people of Kosovo. But I think that we'll have to watch closely in December.
And then there will be political decisions made by NATO, by the European Union, but I will tell you that the Kosovo force is extremely well-trained. The caveats that were in place in 2004, in March when there was some civil disturbance and bloodshed, those caveats are gone. Their commander has all the flexibility, and we believe -- I believe the force levels required with significantly wide-ranging planning already ongoing for the range of possibilities.
Q General, you say -- (inaudible) -- the participation you need from key NATO allies in Afghanistan. Have you given any thought to filling the gap with U.S. troops? Have you requested any -- a troop upsurge or would you consider that in the future?
GEN. CRADDOCK: As the NATO commander, what we do is we hold a force generation conference, and all the nations, including the U.S., come in and we lay out what we need. So at that point, you know, the U.S. has the opportunity to bid. The U.S. last winter made a commitment of another brigade, which was an enormous impact, positive impact; gave COM-ISAF then the tactical flexibility of having a reserve to move around where he needed, and it's made a huge difference.
Now, specifically asking the U.S., if I have to go specifically ask the U.S., it will be for enablers, it will be for capabilities, unique capabilities that maybe the U.S. has; other nations either don't have or don't have in supply adequately enough to provide for Afghanistan if they're using it somewhere else. Now there's another U.S. force in Afghanistan, and that's Operation Enduring Freedom Central Command. And they would go directly back and ask for forces there. So it's a complex arrangement. It doesn't brief well, but it works pretty well on the ground.
Q (Off mike) -- example of unique capabilities?
GEN. CRADDOCK: Helicopters. ISR, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability. Read unmanned aerial vehicles, those type things. Special operations forces, potentially.
Q (Off mike.)
GEN. CRADDOCK: Those are in the force pool, in the force generation conference. Okay? So we put that out there. Nations bid. The U.S. is providing about 38 percent of the forces in Kosovo. I'm a NATO general at the force generation conference.
Q Are we seeing the (CJSOR ?) before October's meeting?
GEN. CRADDOCK: Which October's meeting?
Q The --
GEN. CRADDOCK: The Defmin -- the Defmin --
GEN. CRADDOCK: I don't know. As I said, it's in process. I think ISAF has sent it up the chain to the Joint Force Command Brunssum. I'm waiting for it so we can take a look at it. We have a force generation conference, I believe, in November. That's my target.
Q Just one clarification. I thought I heard you say, "U.S. providing 38 percent of the force in Kosovo." Did you mean --
GEN. CRADDOCK: I'm sorry. I meant Afghanistan.
Q Okay. I just wanted to make sure that was clear.
Q The NATO force in Afghanistan, right?
GEN. CRADDOCK: Yup. NATO. Right. That's all I deal with. You got -- I don't have that hat on.
Q (Off mike.)
GEN. CRADDOCK: Oh, yeah, okay.
Q (Off mike) -- you haven't gotten it.
GEN. CRADDOCK: AFRICOM. You know -- okay, sure.
Q All right. How deep-seated is the resentment in Africa to setting up a headquarters there? I note at Kip Ward's nomination hearing there was a -- brochures were passed out -- concerned organizations opposed to AFRICOM. Obviously hard to read from Washington the level of opposition, but what's your best take?
GEN. CRADDOCK: You're talking about the resentment in Africa?
Q Yeah -- (off mike) -- countries of resentment or suspicion.
GEN. CRADDOCK: My take is, there's some countries with a pretty strong position that they don't want an AFRICOM element there. I think that there are some countries there with a strong position that are attempting to influence others. I think there are some that, if they were not being influenced, would be amenable, and I think there are some that have already said, "We welcome you."
Q How important is it to have a headquarters for AFRICOM on the continent versus at Stuttgart?
GEN. CRADDOCK: I think my experience as a combatant commander in SOUTHCOM -- that probably it's easier if you are there; you get a better sense of it. On the other hand, we don't want to be where we're not wanted.
So we've got some issues, some decisions and some things we're going to have to weigh here and play off against each other. But I think we ought to continue to work through this and see what the traffic will bear and how we might do it in a manner that we can make it positive and an advantage as they see this unfolding, so it's not viewed in a context, I think, that's being misjudged. That's -- you know, I don't think there's a fair judgment right now. This is not your father's combatant command. It's going to have a different construct to it. Yeah.
MODERATOR: Thank you, sir.
GEN. CRADDOCK: Okay. Thank you, folks.
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