Stavridis Praises Allies’ Afghanistan Efforts

WASHINGTON, March 30, 2011 — The fight in Afghanistan has become a glob­al effort, with com­mit­ted part­ners from nations that include Mon­go­lia, Bul­gar­ia, Ton­ga and El Sal­vador, NATO’s supreme allied com­man­der for Europe said here today.
“In addi­tion to the 49 coun­tries with troops there, well over 80 coun­tries are con­tribut­ing finan­cial­ly to devel­op Afghanistan,” Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis told the House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee.

In addi­tion to con­tribut­ing resources and capa­bil­i­ties, Stavridis said, allied nations “are in the fight.”

Although U.S. forces in Afghanistan out­num­ber those of oth­er nations by a 2‑to‑1 mar­gin, the admi­ral said, allied nations have had 900 ser­vice mem­bers killed in action, com­pared to the U.S. total of about 1,400.

“So they are suf­fer­ing casu­al­ties at a high­er rate per capi­ta than we are here in the Unit­ed States in many instances,” he said.

One of the allies’ spe­cif­ic skills is train­ing.

“If you think about how we’re going to suc­ceed in Afghanistan, I believe we will train our way to suc­cess,” Stavridis said. “We’re begin­ning a tran­si­tion this sum­mer that will run through 2014, and I believe the abil­i­ty to make that tran­si­tion is depen­dent on effec­tive Afghan secu­ri­ty forces.”

Some 275,000 Afghan secu­ri­ty forces are being trained by U.S. forces and by coali­tion part­ners who bring dis­crete skill sets at every­thing from ori­en­teer­ing to air­craft main­te­nance, Stavridis said. The train­ing effort, he added, “is an area in which we are encour­ag­ing our allies to bring addi­tion­al forces.” Cana­da and the Nether­lands recent­ly increased the num­bers of troops they are com­mit­ting to the train­ing mis­sion, he said.

Coali­tion part­ners also are at work in a com­mand-and-con­trol sense, Stavridis said, not­ing that Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, com­man­der of the NATO-led Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force in Afghanistan, has a British deputy com­man­der and a French chief of staff.

“As you look around Afghanistan to the lead­ers in each region­al com­mand area, Kab­ul is com­mand­ed by a Turk,” Stavridis said. “In the far west, we see an Ital­ian in com­mand. In the north we see a Ger­man in com­mand, in addi­tion to U.S. com­man­ders in the south and the east.

“The con­tri­bu­tions of the allies are note­wor­thy and part of my cau­tious opti­mism for suc­cess in Afghanistan,” he added.

Despite eco­nom­ic chal­lenges, Euro­pean allies have great resources, Stavridis said.

“The [gross domes­tic prod­uct] of Europe is about $14 tril­lion, very sim­i­lar to that of the Unit­ed States, so if you put the Unit­ed States’ GDP and Europe’s GDP togeth­er, about $28 [tril­lion] to $30 tril­lion, which is rough­ly half of the glob­al GDP.

“We’re lucky that our close allies in Europe live in pros­per­ous soci­eties that can con­tribute to defense,” he added. How­ev­er, he acknowl­edged, many allies are not meet­ing the NATO stan­dard of spend­ing of at least 2 per­cent of their GDP on defense.

A hand­ful, includ­ing the Unit­ed King­dom, France, Turkey and Greece and oth­ers, are meet­ing the stan­dard, he said.

But the major­i­ty of NATO part­ners are not meet­ing the GDP defense-spend­ing stan­dard,” the admi­ral added.

“So I am wor­ried,” he said.

Because the Unit­ed States pays a much-high­er per­cent­age of GDP for its defense, Stavridis said.

“We need to be emphat­ic with our Euro­pean allies that they should spend at least the min­i­mum NATO 2 per­cent,” he said.

The admi­ral said he stress­es that point with NATO allies.

“I car­ry that mes­sage often, emphat­i­cal­ly and very direct­ly, frankly, not only to mil­i­tary coun­ter­parts but also to polit­i­cal actors in each of the nations in the alliance,” he said.

A min­i­mum defense spend­ing goal of 2 per­cent of gross domes­tic prod­uct is very rea­son­able, Stavridis said, and one that the alliance should be able to sup­port, not­ing that Sec­re­tary of State Hillary Rod­ham Clin­ton and Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates also raise the issue with NATO mem­bers.

“We are all lean­ing for­ward to make sure our allies do the right thing in this regard,” the admi­ral said.

The coali­tion also is deal­ing with oth­er prob­lems in Afghanistan, which pro­duces 80 to 90 per­cent of the world’s pop­py. This is turned into opi­um, and ulti­mate­ly into hero­in, Stavridis said.

Tal­iban financ­ing comes from the pop­py trade, he added, which pro­vides a fund­ing stream of $100 mil­lion to $200 mil­lion annu­al­ly for ene­my activ­i­ty.

The route is marked by cor­rup­tion and crime as the drugs move from Afghanistan through cen­tral Asia, through the the Balka­ns, and to users in Rus­sia, Europe and, ulti­mate­ly, the Unit­ed States, Stavridis said.

A mul­ti­a­gency coun­ter­traf­fick­ing effort is being estab­lished to sup­port the U.S. Drug Enforce­ment Agency as it takes the lead, he said, and the mil­i­tary com­mand con­tributes sur­veil­lance, con­nec­tiv­i­ty and an ana­lyt­ic capa­bil­i­ty.

“It’s a sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenge, but we’re start­ing to see some impact,” Stavridis said. “In Afghanistan, where we start this sup­ply chain and we see Afghans in the lead but NATO sup­port­ing, we have seen a reduc­tion in the pro­duc­tion of pop­py and, there­fore, of opi­um and hero­in, by about 20 per­cent over the last two years. We’re start­ing down the path.” In the end, how­ev­er, gains are nec­es­sary on the demand side as well as the sup­ply side and the tran­sit zone.

“There’s no sil­ver bul­let,” the admi­ral said. “You kind of have to go at all three of those. We’re attack­ing all three in an inter­a­gency way.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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