Questions and Answers

at the joint press conference with Chairman of the NATO Military Committee General Petr Pavel, Supreme Allied Commander Europe General Curtis Scaparrotti and Supreme Allied Commander Transformation General Denis Mercier

  • 16 May. 2018 -
  • |
  • Last updated: 16 May. 2018 22:14

Moderator: Now I will ask for you to state your name and outlet when asking your question. Julian, please.

Julian Barnes –Wall Street Journal: I wondered if you could talk a little bit about NATO counter-terrorism efforts beyond Iraq and Afghanistan. Secretary Pompeo on his visit here to Brussels talked again about how counter-terrorism is important to the Trump administration, we will here from the President and the Secretary General tomorrow but can you characterize a little bit about what you discussed today, what new initiatives that NATO is going to do to address this problem. And just as a related matter the Command Structure Review is very much orientated to problems about the East, the Logistics Command for moving material across the continent, the Atlantic Command for defending sea lanes but does it really do anything that addresses the concerns of southern facing Allies of the counter-terrorism problem.

General Curtis M Scaparrotti (Supreme Allied Commander Europe): I will take it if you want.

General Petr Pavel (Chairman, NATO Military Committee): Go ahead.

General Curtis M Scaparrotti (Supreme Allied Commander Europe): First of all, when we look at counter-terrorism, obviously our ability to project stability with building capabilities as we are going to do in Iraq as we are planning to expand in Iraq as a part of this, Afghanistan the same thing, we work with Tunisia, Jordan and other places with the same perspective. We work hard on the exchange of information, on information sharing and how to break the barriers that we have both within NATO and with our Partners. Every place you go around the globe that is one of the toughest things having to do with information and intel, the difference between military information and that that’s within the civilian governance realm, those are the things that we work on and our headquarters actually by nature of the way that they are structured and what we train on given the environment that we live in today works on being able to produce that kind of analysis and help other nations as well as their civilian side where we can with information flow and analysis of information but that’s part of it. I would tell you that the Hub by its very nature, it is focused on the South but it is focused on transnational threats of all kinds that helps us with the CT environment as well.

To the NCS question, I would just say that we tend to focus towards the East because you see the largest pieces that this within the NCS, the two new large headquarters orientated largely towards getting back into a peer competitor and a very dynamic environment but actually the NCS has been very carefully structured so it does respond 360 to all three of our core missions that we have. The Hub is one specifically that has to do with the South but the changes that we have made internal to each of those headquarters were to respond to the challenges in today’s environment, like cyber, like information and the need to connect between our Strategic Operational and NATO Force Structure, etc. that’s built in to the entire… the entire Command Structure and those things apply just as importantly to efforts in the South and those challenges as it does to our peer competitor challenge that we look at in the East is how I would respond to that. We very much focused on the ability to do that.

General Denis Mercier (Supreme Allied Command Transformation): If I can just complement that with this. We have developed very recently a Concept for Counter-Terrorism which goes beyond as you mentioned Afghanistan and Iraq with three main chapters regarding assessments, engagements and the capabilities we need. For your second question, when we look at the necessity to organize logistics in SACEUR’s AOR, it is not only for a threat that could come from the South, we still have in the Strategic concept the possibility… the necessity to be able to engage two major and six small joint operations together. If we had to engage a few operations together, the organization of the logistics in the full AOR would be a very important task as well. So this decision is not only focused on the threat that could come from the East.

Teri Schultz – NPR & Deutsche Welle: To follow up on Julian’s question, to be fair those are things that you have done, those are advancements that you have made but President Trump says that he wants more, that NATO can do more against counter-terrorism so I think what we are looking for is what more can you do that the accomplishments that you have just reviewed?

General Curtis M Scaparrotti (Supreme Allied Commander Europe): I would tell you that we are doing some of those things now but we are going to do them better, that’s part of this adaptation. You know I see you smiling but headquarters today have got to be dramatically different in their agility and their skills than they were yesterday and those things make a difference in counter-terror. You go to any intelligence centre today, okay and you look at what they are striving to do in terms of fusion – that’s what we’ve got to build. And the United States is still trying to perfect the skills and how better to do that so I would tell you that, it isn’t about a thing, it isn’t necessarily about a new headquarters of some kind, it is  about improving the skills that are internal to headquarters that we have. Secondly, we are a part of the Coalition. Now that’s happened since, you know last year as well. NATO is a part of that Coalition, that’s the difference because what it does is it gives us that coordination and participation in the Coalition on a daily basis that we didn’t have before, that was done only done individually by nations. So those are some of the things that we are looking at and we’ll continue to get better and make a difference at counter-terrorism. The last thing I will say is that as you know this threat is 360, there is not a nation in Europe that doesn’t have a concern about the transnational threats or terrorist threats so again when we designed this NATO Command Structure and we look at it, we’ve got to be able to look at it 360 – we’ve got to look at not only the external threat but the internal threat and how we help our Nations secure themselves. 

General Petr Pavel (Chairman, NATO Military Committee): I will probably add one more thing and it’s to do more in counter-terrorism is not just killing more terrorists, it is much broader than that and we spent about a third of our time today discussing issues of the South and they are not just we have done but they are about the plans that are ahead of us and they include a number of training activities with the Partners in the region to increase their resilience and capacity to deal with these issues with our assistance so I think the range of measures that we are taking and are going to take is quite broad and southern Nations have addressed all their challenges and all their concerns and they approved the way ahead so I can tell you that they are happy with the way-ahead that we have taken.

Moderator: Front row over here please

Jamie Macintyre – Washington Examiner:  As little as six months ago we were getting very upbeat assessments from US Commanders in Afghanistan in the briefings that we got at the Pentagon. The new strategy was called a game-changer and one of the generals said he thought we had turned the corner in Afghanistan. Today we see that the Afghan Forces are in a tough fight with the Taliban, so my question to you General Scaparrotti, is three fold. One is, do you think we have turned a corner in Afghanistan or how would you describe it? Two, what kind of progress do you think is reasonable to expect this year in Afghanistan, and the last part is what more does NATO need to do to ensure that progress is achieved?

General Curtis M Scaparrotti (Supreme Allied Commander Europe): To ensure the progress I would tell we need to continue our resolve, we need to continue the manning and the capabilities that we’ve committed to, which we still need some that I would like to see Nations fulfil to bring that Commander to his full requirement, that would be very helpful. Secondly I would tell you, I don’t typically use the term turn the corner or something like that, this is tough fight and is going to be a long fight. I have always believed that and I have served there a couple of times as a Commander.

But I think the plan we have in place, and importantly the Afghan RoadMap which is theirs. I mean I know that, I have talked to President Ghani and heard him describe it, it’s their plan .I think it’s right. I think it has a good perspective and I think their subordinates actually are committed to executing that, that is different and I think that is one of the differences here with what we have gone into this past year and what we are moving into now. And so we want to see them execute that Roadmap. This will be a year that I think you’ll see a second, what I would expect to see is a second year where the Afghan Forces are successful in leading that fight, and decreasing the ability of Taliban to operate throughout their fighting season. And being in a position to continue to improve that plan and get ready for the next one. We did that last year.

You know today, for instance you see the violence that started this summer campaign but at this point this year, we are 15% below any point at the start of a campaign for the last five years overall in violence at this time. And we are below the norm for the amount of attacks or violence for the start of a campaign in this particular precise period that is started. So why you see the high profile ones, what you don’t see below that in context, is their ability to do it in a broad way. To have the capacity or the up-tempo that they have shown in the past. And we know that they are struggling some in their chain of command etc. So from my perspective we see the Afghans carrying this fight forward well enough that at the other end, we have had a second year of putting pressure on the Taliban, and enough pressure that as we look to the future, what would I hope to see, is more of them coming to the table for reconciliation and we have to get to a negotiated point, and that’s the whole point of the Roadmap, is to build capacity and put that kind of pressure on.

General Petr Pavel (Chairman, NATO Military Committee): If I may Mike, I would like to add one point and it’s more civilian than military. And I think it is quite a new phenomenon which we heard recently at a meeting here in Brussels of Ministers of Foreign Affairs, both from military Commander as well as from senior civilian representative. And it’s the growing frustration, dissatisfaction of Afghan public with the protracted conflict and the growth of peace movements and pressure on local authorities as well as on government to end the conflict. And also high visibility attacks take a lot of attention of international media but at the same time they are cutting support to Taliban internally. So the situation is changing slowly even in Afghan society and the move towards ending the conflict is very much different from what we learnt over the last couple of years.

Moderator: Iryna, Unian please

Iryna Somer – Ukrainian News Agency: Question for you, General Pavel. This is your last press conference and I do believe I am allowed to ask a question on a little bit different topic, because I am Ukrainian, it is obvious, it will be on Ukraine. After all these years working with Ukrainians, what will be your advice to your successor, how to deal with this partner? And second part of my question, recently you were in Ukraine, can you please tell us what is in your report to North Atlantic Council? What is your conclusion? Thank you.

General Petr Pavel (Chairman, NATO Military Committee): I will be very brief. I think the best way ahead is to continue the path we have set on and it’s to make Ukraine successful, both militarily and economically, because this is the best answer to Russian approach to Ukraine. So we will continue supporting Ukrainian Armed Forces to be modern, capable and having a good deterrent effect. We will also support Ukraine through a number of means within this comprehensive package that we have for Ukraine including financial support and institutional support, political support, and we will keep pressing Russia to comply with international norms. And my report about the visit in Ukraine was very positive assessment on the progress the Ukrainian Armed Forces are doing on the part of reforms. Because even though it may look slow for some that are not informed, actually the progress that they are doing is quite remarkable.

Moderator: Jim please. Last question.

Jim Garamone - DoD News: All three of you Gentlemen mentioned Trident Juncture. Obviously you attach a lot of importance to it. What lesson do you hope Russia gets from this exercise, and exercises like it?

General Curtis M Scaparrotti (Supreme Allied Commander Europe): First thing I’ll say briefly is, it is part of our deterrence of Russia. It is a demonstration of our capability, how we see the world and what we are able to do. And it is simply that, a deterrent message.

General Denis Mercier (Supreme Allied Command Transformation): And to add to that, we do not have soo many opportunities to have very large LIVEX, live exercise where we deploy real troops. I mentioned more than 40,000 and this is a good demonstration of first our unity, this a demonstration of the way we work with even with Partners, because a few Partner Nations will be engaged, and this is a good demonstration of our interoperability, and that is very important to make this demonstration that, when we are twenty-nine, we are not less performant than one, we are much more, and that’s the message we intend to send with Trident Juncture 18.

General Curtis M Scaparrotti (Supreme Allied Commander Europe): And if I could say one other, is and I have emphasized this before, if you look at our exercises compared to what Russia does for instance, this is an exercise that is focused on defence, it’s a defensive of the sovereign nations that are part of NATO, that’s what we do. And that’s what this will represent as well.

General Petr Pavel (Chairman, NATO Military Committee): And even though I haven’t mentioned the exercise,but I will add one sentence. And it that by having this exercise, we will fully comply with all the norms and obligations in terms of Vienna process.