NATO Member and Partner Chiefs of Defence conclude meetings
BRUSSELS – Top military officers of NATO nations today concluded two days of discussions and exchanges at NATO Headquarters on a wide range of military-related issues. This is the third of three annual meetings at Chiefs of Staff level.
Chiefs of defence and/or their representatives from 30 partner nations also attended in Partnership for Peace, Mediterranean Dialogue, NATO-Ukraine, and NATO-Russia formats over yesterday and today.
“The sessions built on the momentum and the good work from our last session in September in Canada to prioritize our work ahead of the Bucharest Summit in April next year,” said Gen. Ray Henault, Chairman of NATO’s Military Committee, and NATO’s top military officer. “Gen. John Craddock [the SACEUR] set the scene in our first session with NATO members with an operational overview of the military situation in Afghanistan and in Kosovo.”
“With regard to the latter, KFOR stands ready to assist the UN and institutions of self-government in Kosovo to continue to provide a safe and secure environment for the upcoming elections, and for the period following the release of the Troika report in early December. This work is being done in close cooperation with counterparts in other international organisations.”
“There was a key discussion by NATO Chiefs of Defence on Afghanistan,” continued Henault. “Our focus remains on providing security to allow the extension of Afghan government authority across the country, and to allow sustainable reconstruction and development efforts to take hold.”
“We have seen modest progress on force generation. In pure numerical terms, the number of troops deployed has risen by more than 8,500 in a year, but there are still shortfalls, and we discussed the strategic risks and consequences associated with continued under-resourcing of the minimum military requirement,” said Henault. “Given the deployed resources, we remain satisfied in the main with the pace and progress of the security portion of the security-governance-development triad. With more, we could do more and do it faster.”
“The Military Committee also believes that efforts by the Afghan government and international community to step up institutional reform are important, particularly with respect to the Afghan National Police,” continued Henault.
“There remain some shortfalls,” said Henault. “Some of these, like helicopter support, are long-standing: they are high value assets for any operation anywhere, and it will take time to build additional capability. We are working through that. Operational Mentoring and Liaison Teams, on the other hand, have a large pay-off for a relatively small investment. Fielding more training and liaison teams for the Afghan National Army remains a key priority. I heard common intent and purpose on the part of Chiefs of Defence – including some chiefs from our Partner countries – to review national contributions in this regard.”
Operational support and process-related issues also featured in the discussions. These included initiatives related to education and training; developing a policy on how to work more closely with international actors in operations (a “comprehensive approach”); and better integrating resource considerations in Military Committee advice to political authorities.
Discussions with Mediterranean Dialogue nations focused on operations, progress on an initiative to develop more cooperation on training activities, and the means to enhance military interoperability with NATO forces.
The Ukrainian chief of defence and his NATO counterparts reviewed progress toward transformation of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, discussed this year’s Work Plan, and approved the series of areas for work and military-to-military cooperation for 2008.
“We had another useful session with Russian Chief of Defence Gen. Baluyevskyi,” said Henault. “We exchanged views on issues of mutual concern and common interest, including the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty. This is a substantive forum for discussing military-to-military cooperation initiatives, and to set the focus, direction and pace of future cooperative efforts. Overall, the number of collective military ventures may be down, but we remain pleased at the results of initiatives we have undertaken together. This includes Russia’s continued participation in NATO’s counter-terrorism mission [in the Mediterranean], and our counter-narcotics training efforts for Afghanistan, as two examples.”
The meeting also featured the election of Gen. Henault’s successor as Chairman of the Military Committee. Admiral Giampaolo Di Paola, from Italy, was elected by a simple majority of NATO Chiefs of Defence. He is expected to assume his tenure in June 2008, when Gen. Henault will retire after a 40-year career, and at the conclusion of a three-year tenure.