WASHINGTON, Nov. 24, 2010 — The recent NATO summit enhanced the organization’s interaction with Russia and the strategic partnership with Afghanistan as well as furthering progress on European missile defense, the top U.S. military commander in Europe said here today.
Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis, commander of U.S. European command and NATO supreme allied commander, Europe, delivered a briefing at the Washington Foreign Press Center and responded to reporters’ questions on the Nov. 19 and 20 NATO summit held in Lisbon, Portugal.
The summit’s three primary topics were the delivery of the new strategic concept and its applications to cyberdefense and missile defense; NATO-Russia interaction at the NATO-Russia Council; and the transition of security responsibility in Afghanistan, Stavridis said.
The gathering addressed Afghanistan “not just as NATO but as [the International Security Assistance Force],” the admiral said, “which is a coalition of 48 countries, the 28 NATO countries and 20 additional.”
The Afghanistan discussion focused principally on transition, “which will begin 2011, continue through 2014, President [Hamid] Karzai’s stated goal of completion of transition to Afghan-led operations,” he said.
It also focused on longer-term strategic partnerships between Afghanistan and NATO’s International Security Assistance Force, Stavridis said, in line with NATO’s new strategic concept committing the alliance to become more agile, more capable and more effective.
The NATO-ISAF “comprehensive approach” to operations in Afghanistan aims to bring together economic, political, military and developmental capabilities during the transition phase in that country, he said.
“That [approach] is highlighted in the strategic concept,” the admiral said.
As the security transition unfolds, Stavridis said, ISAF forces will take an “in together, out together” approach as they have done and still do in Kosovo.
“We have come down from a total of over 50,000 NATO troops in the Balkans at one time, down to … 10,000 last year, and I’ve just authorized a reduction to 5,000 NATO troops in Kosovo,” Stavridis said. “As we do that, the allies are leaving proportional to the size of the troop strength that is there.”
He said the same concept “will determine how we begin withdrawing troops [from Afghanistan] as the transition unfolds from 2011 forward to the completion that we all look for in 2014.”
The supreme allied commander said the NATO’s strategic concept also “put a strong marker down” on focusing additional resources and work on cyberdefense and on ballistic missile defense.
“We talked a little bit about how the alliance will hook into the U.S. for [missile defense] phased adaptive approach in the time to come,” he said. “We made a commitment at Lisbon that, as an alliance, we would move forward with that integration.”
The phased approach, Stavridis said, will over time integrate U.S. missile defense capabilities with NATO command and control systems, he said.
“I’m quite confident we’ll be able to surmount the technical challenges as we go forward,” the admiral said.
NATO’s strategic concept focuses the alliance on partnerships, Stavridis said.
“Here I would highlight … strategic partnership with Russia,” he said. “President [Dmitry] Medvedev’s participation was noteworthy, and we talked about working together on terrorism, piracy, narcotics, Afghanistan, missile defense. And I felt a very positive atmosphere in terms of NATO-Russia strategic partnership.”
The NATO commander clarified that Russian support to ISAF and Afghanistan would not include Russian military operations there.
“What we are talking about is Russian support to ISAF, and I’ll give you some concrete examples: additional support on the logistics flow through our distribution networks; helping by selling Mi-17 helicopters to Afghanistan; perhaps doing some training in Russia for Afghans, if this is something that would be of interest to the Afghan government,” Stavridis said.
The summit also addressed NATO reform, “trying to find more efficiencies in the structure for NATO operational command,” he said. The NATO command structure currently has “about 12 headquarters and … about 13,000 total people,” Stavridis said, which the organization will trim to approximately seven headquarters and just under 9,000 people.
“As we do that, we’re going to reorient the number of commands. No decisions have been made as yet as to which individual commands will be closing,” he said. Overall, Stavridis said, the summit was very productive.
“It was perfect. It was really extremely well organized, extremely well done,” he said. “An excellent summit, from my viewpoint.”
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)