Questions and answers

at the joint press conference by Chairman of the Military Committee, General Petr Pavel, by Supreme Allied Commander Europe - General Curtis M. Scaparrotti and by Supreme Allied Commander Transformation - General Denis Mercier

  • 17 May. 2017 -
  • |
  • Last updated: 17 May. 2017 22:13

Joint press conference with the Chairman of the Military Committee, General Petr Pavel, Supreme Allied Commander Europe General Curtis M. Scaparrotti and Supreme Allied Commander Transformation General Denis Mercier

Moderator - Dr Eva Svobodova, Public Affairs and Strategic Communications Advisor to the Chairman of the NATO Military Committee and International Military Staff: Thank you Sirs. The floor is now open to your questions. If you could please state your affiliation when asking your question?

Question: Julian Barnes with the Wall Street Journal. Question for General Scaparrotti and then one for General Pavel. General Scaparrotti, there’s been discussion about whether the United States would ask NATO for more forces in Afghanistan. I wonder to what extent was that discussed, to what extent is NATO meeting the current requirements and what do you think the advantage of additional forces would be? And General Pavel, I wonder what you can tell us about your counter terrorism defence capacity building discussions today? Is there an appetite for NATO to do more in Iraq say, and is that you know, are we talking just a small increase or could this potentially be hundreds of NATO trainers in Iraq? Thanks

General Curtis M Scaparrotti (Supreme Allied Commander Europe): Yeah Julian thank you. First of all, as you know, the United States hasn’t made the decision yet on the troop strength for the United States. That fact was discussed among the CHODS, so we didn’t get into specifics or the United States probable troop strength. We did talk about the needs of the Commander. I would answer specifically about your question on CJSOR, we haven’t completely filled the requirements that have been approved within NATO to this point. And as a Commander as well, it will certainly be helpful to fill that CJSOR, what it will provides us with is the train, advise and assist capability, particularly the advisors and the strength that is needed to do a better job. And I can tell you from my experience there, I think that would be a significant benefit to fill those out across the battlefield with the units that exist today in the Afghan Army.

General Petr Pavel (Chairman, NATO Military Committee): On NATO and counter terrorism, I think there is a tendency to believe that we start from a blank sheet of paper. I think it’s worth reminding that NATO is contributing to the fight against terrorism for now many years. The very operation in Afghanistan has been launched after a terrorist attack on the United States. NATO is also contributing to the fight against terrorism through training of local forces, through Defence Capacity Building in these countries, to help them to better face terrorism at home. NATO members, NATO Allies are all members of the Global Coalition against ISIL, against terrorism.

And now the discussion is if NATO is to become a member of that Coalition, the decision is pending for the Heads of State and Government meeting and we discussed it. And the Chiefs of Defence’s recommendation is that there’s some merit for NATO becoming a member of that Coalition. If NATO is to step up their efforts in Iraq by individuals or tens or hundreds, I will not tell you at this point, but there is general agreement that NATO can, and should do more, especially by stepping up efforts in training, capacity building, institution building, exercises to increasing home capabilities, that means the kinds of activities where NATO has not only good reputation but also a lot of expertise and experience.

Question: Noureddine Fridhi from Al Arabiya News Channel. I have a question for General Pavel. Daesh according to some Iraqi officials is about to defeated, may be a matter of weeks. You said in the presentation of the press conference that potentially NATO could be a member of the Coalition, Anti-Daesh Coalition. Will that be late if Daesh is defeated, maybe this membership is a bit late or you expect seriously that Daesh is moving to Syria and possibly Iraqi fights mainly those militia, whether they are supported by Iran, directed by Iran, influenced by Iran, move to Syria, and then maybe do justify the membership of NATO and more involvement of NATO forces in the war against Daesh?

General Petr Pavel (Chairman, NATO Military Committee): Let me start by saying that we do not understand terrorism only as Daesh. Terrorism is obviously much broader and countering terrorism is not just about defeating Daesh. And even defeating Daesh, we can distinguish between, let’s say, physical defeat of the elements but it doesn’t say anything about defeating the ideology. So this will be a long lasting fight that will not end by taking Mosul and Raqqa. I think this fight will go on a much broader front, both military but also economic, social, political, religious and it will be a long time activity.

Question: Yes thank you. Alix Rijckaert, I work for AFP. I wanted to ask you, given the information we have from the other side of the Atlantic, do you think it’s still safe to share information with the US administration now there has been talk about President Trump sharing some information with his Russian counterparts lately when he met him, Mr. Lavrov, in Washington? Thank you.

General Petr Pavel (Chairman, NATO Military Committee): I am afraid I cannot comment on that because I don’t know the nature of the information that was shared and it would be very unfair to speculate.

Question: Thank you. Robin Emmott from Reuters. Question to General Pavel. On eFP, there’s been some concern that in Poland, Generals have resigned because they are not happy with the way the Polish Army is deploying its tanks and moving some of its heavy equipment away from the border. I wondered is that something that has been discussed at NATO, do you share any concerns about that. Thank you.

General Petr Pavel (Chairman, NATO Military Committee): On Polish Generals resignation, I can’t comment. It’s a national affair and I don’t want to interfere in it but it’s not related to eFP. As for eFP, I think it is better for SACEUR to address because up to know it’s progressing very well. Mike?

General Curtis M Scaparrotti (Supreme Allied Commander Europe): I’ll say again it is not for us to comment about that general rosters but I will comment on the sense that that has never been a topic raised with me or been discussed with me. I was just in Poland a couple of weeks ago, to look at eFP in particular. It’s falling into place very well there. The integration both within the Polish Defence plan and with the other Allies in NATO, I think it’s working quite well. So I was pleased, I know the Poles were pleased with the initiation of the battlegroup there in Poland.

Question: Thank you. Irina Stormer(?), Ukrainian News Agency, UNIAN. I have a question for everybody who can answer because I do know that you have also meeting with your Ukrainian colleagues, and after which he wrote on his Facebook page that his colleagues offered him several interesting ideas how to resist Russian aggression and how to build up Ukrainian Army. Can you please tell us what is was about this meeting? Thank you.

General Petr Pavel (Chairman, NATO Military Committee): Oh well it is quite an easy answer because the Ukrainian CHOD was present to our RESOLUTE SUPPORT mission. Ukraine is our partner in Afghanistan and that was the only subject of discussion. We haven’t discussed anything related to the problem with Russia.

Question: Thank you, James Michaels USA Today, I have a question about Iraq. In addition to potentially upping the number of advisors and trainers and so forth, is it also possible that NATO may, in coming years assume command and control of the anti-ISIS mission in Iraq, not unlike what’s the relationship with Afghanistan now?

General Petr Pavel (Chairman, NATO Military Committee): Let me tell you that we are in NATO discussing broader frameworks of counter terrorism as well as projecting stability. And Iraq being now a country that is in turmoil with internal conflict, is a country that is not stable, and we will focus our attention on all countries that need to improve stability. Within that framework we will conduct a number of activities to support all these countries including Iraq, so we can expect it will be long lasting activity, a long lasting partnership with Iraq, as well as with many other countries in the region, but I don’t see it necessarily as kind of mission similar to RESOLUTE SUPPORT.

Question: Brooks Tigner, Jane’s Defence. I have two questions, one for you General Pavel and one for you, General Mercier. First for you, regarding your review of NATO’s C2 system, C2 structure in order to react faster to hybrid threats and others. Is the goal to better use the system the way it is right now or do you seek additional command posts, assets to do that? Second question, you said all the Allies support the new capabilities requirements to meet these threats and challenges but it will still be many years before the new defence spending by the Allies is there to support most of those requirements. Before then don’t you think that you should step the pressure for real smart defence, sharing… pulling and sharing on varied wide, fast-scale before then? Thank you.

General Petr Pavel (Chairman, NATO Military Committee): Let me start with a very broad introduction because now NATO Command Structure is in the hands of Strategic Commanders. The security situation is very dynamic, it is developing quickly so it would be strange that NATO Command Structure, that the whole NATO does not adapt accordingly so we have to look at to an extent current NATO Command Structure, response to all the requirements of today and especially of tomorrow. And that’s why we have now that Functional Assessment that will then lead to some adjustments. We have divided it into two phases, one short-term where the Strategic Commanders suggested some minor adjustments to optimise the structure and in the long-run, we will… they will propose some adjustments to the structure. Basic principles is that we will make some use of existing structures, not to come up with entirely new structure but we can expect that there will be some new proposals. I will leave it to Strategic Commanders.

General Curtis M Scaparrotti (Supreme Allied Commander Europe): Yeah, I think… I think we are taking a very deep look at this given the change in the environment. Our instructions between Denis and I, let’s to not restrict ourselves, let’s look at the environment that we have and into the future and design the command and control that we need. And I would for instance… we have recognised a new domain in Cyber that requires in the short-term, as you said, some changes that we can make to address that but it also requires probably some adaptation within our command and control structure because that cuts across everything. That’s just one example but this is needed and…

Brooks Tigner, Jane’s Defence: [inaudible] Does this mean additional posts?

General Curtis M Scaparrotti (Supreme Allied Commander Europe): No, no it’s not. We are going to build the Command Structure, strategic to tactical that we believe we need for the purpose of the environment so… I am not looking for growth necessarily I am looking to get it right.

General Denis Mercier (Supreme Allied Commander Transformation): And I cannot agree more with what Mike said about the command and control structure. The NATO is the only international organisation that has the military very robust command and control structure but the complexity of the environment leads us to permanently adapt it and it has been done in the past and as Mike mentioned it is not a question of reopening everything it is just a question of implementing the functions in accordance to the new environment, Cyber, for instance and others. That leads to the second question. The question of smart defence, we will continue to encourage any multinational initiatives and it is not limited to smart defence in order to provide us, as fast as possible, to provide the right capabilities to meet the level of ambition that has been set out by NATO. And Smart Defence is a way to provide some of these capabilities, or to train together or to provide [inaudible] but we have to…

Brooks Tigner, Jane’s Defence: [inaudible]

General Denis Mercier (Supreme Allied Commander Transformation): But… we have…

Brooks Tigner, Jane’s Defence: [inaudible]

General Denis Mercier (Supreme Allied Commander Transformation): But… we have other multinational initiatives that are very interesting because the NATO Defence Planning Process is not only focused on equipment and this is the value of this process again that makes NATO unique because we are building a force – when I say a force that’s equipment, this is the units, the number of ammunitions, the level of readiness of each unit and how we do that. And we have for instance a concept that has been developed by Germany which is a framework nation concept in which one nation can aggregate other nations around in order to provide a level of force that only one nation cannot do.

For instance, nation may not be able to provide a division but together ensuring the framework with other nations can provide the division and this is… we have a range of series of multinational initiatives that will help us based on the full capacity of our nations meet the level of ambition much… muck quickly than we did before. And I would like to add something because this is something we are working on now is providing certain capabilities would take but there are other capabilities, I am thinking again on Cyber, information technology capabilities that require very quick procurement processes which is not possible today in NATO but we are working on that because we will need to adapt our processes in order to be sure that we can keep up with the very fast pace of innovation of certain technologies.

Question: Laurent Bartholomy from Agence France Presse. General Nicholson has said I think three months ago that he needed a few thousand more troops in Afghanistan. Can you tell us what is the timeline for the decision of this request? Isn’t there some kind of emergency given that the fighting season has already begun in Afghanistan or is it something that can wait for a few months?

General Curtis M Scaparrotti (Supreme Allied Commander Europe): Yeah he has done a review and provided a request, as you know that his request is to fill the minimum fill, the CJSOR requirements. And I would tell you from a military perspective the sooner we can provide him his shortages, the better. And here in NATO we think this will be considered here very soon. This is the normal period. He’s got it in and we about to have a Heads of State meeting where it will be considered.

Question: Marcus Weisberger, Defense One. People are going to ask why after 15 years in Afghanistan and Iraq, why more troops are needed? What is the argument that you said earlier for Iraq, what is the argument here to ask to your political leaders, why they should support?

General Curtis M Scaparrotti (Supreme Allied Commander Europe): I’d like to address is going back a bit. I have been a commander in Iraq and Afghanistan multiple times now and I would tell you if you look at Afghanistan, that’s a very good question you know, it’s one that when I went in on the surge, I followed a year after the surge, you know as a commander I estimated we could probably turn the fight over to the Afghan forces around 2014, that’s about what we did. So I guess what I am saying that we know this is a long fight here. This is going to take time. It’s going to take time to build a military in Afghanistan who now has the fight but the capacity to sustain that and bring the stability that is needed to bring the Taliban to negotiation. I have confidence we can do that. Our objective is in Afghanistan to ensure that we have a stable government that is no longer a safe haven and I would say to you we have to attain that. If we think we can leave, we will find we are back because we are fighting a global terrorist, we’re fighting global terrorists today and that will be another place where they will use to launch attacks so we can succeed and I think we must succeed.

Question: Does NATO have the will to do this sort of generational war?

General Curtis M Scaparrotti (Supreme Allied Commander Europe): I believe it does. NATO has been around a long time and we tend to focus on so what are the differences in the discussion of 28, that’s one of the things you see in an alliance but I would tell you when you look at the product today, a safe and secure Europe since post World War II and its ability to come together when we need to be together for threats like we are doing today, and the challenges today, I’d say yes it does. I think it does have the will.