Lieutenant General David Leakey, Director-General of the European Union Military Staff

Lieutenant General David Leakey is Director-General
of the European Union Military Staff
(© Council of the European Union)
As Director-General of the European Union Military Staff (EUMS), British Army Lieutenant General David Leakey oversees early warning, situation assessment and strategic planning for the EU. The latter includes planning for the EU’s missions in both Kosovo and Afghanistan. From December 2004 to December 2005, General Leakey commanded the first EU Force (EUFOR) in Bosnia and Herzegovina, experiencing first-hand the Berlin Plus arrangements in practice.

NATO Review: What are your priorities as Director-General of the EU Military Staff?
General David Leakey: The military aspect of ESDP [European Security and Defence Policy] has been running for six years now and so, by comparison with NATO, it is still in its infancy. But it has got off to a good start organisationally, politically and militarily. It has delivered some really excellent results and, like any organisation, it is evolving.

My ambitions are first of all to make our organisation fit for purpose. In this changing world, the nature of the ESDP military missions has been quite diverse: Operation Artemis in the Democratic Republic of Congo; then the adventure in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*; then Bosnia; and then the Congo again. These operations were all different in size and scale, in potential risks and in geographic distance from here. Congo – and we have been there twice – is not the same as ‘just down the road’ in the Balkans. So we need to be agile, because the next military operation is never the same as the last – and it is never the one you are expecting.

The second thing connected with operations – because that is first and foremost where we deliver – is that in NATO, in the UN and in EU capitals, we are talking about effects-based operations, comprehensive approach or global approach. It does not matter what you call it. I think we all know roughly what we are talking about: the integration of lines of activity between the military, economic, political, and judicial components, as well as the police. And it is only where one gets a good integrated effect that one can succeed in the areas of instability around the world.

So one of the things we are working hard at in the Secretariat is civil-military cooperation, civil-military staff work. We are in the process of readjusting one of the staff divisions here in order to better integrate the military capabilities in planning, support and work with civilian planning. That is something that we need to get better at within the Council Secretariat – getting the civilian and military planning together. We have been doing it for some time, actually. But we are trying to strengthen that integration.

One of my ambitions is to make the civil-military integration better, but not at the expense of compromising military capability. First of all, you need a critical mass of military planning staff to do the essentially military operations; both the uniquely military operations and the military parts of other types of operations. Second, we are not going to adopt a mindset in which civil-military operations are all about tree-hugging, community relations and humanitarian projects.

The military's essential contribution is to set the conditions. In order to set those conditions, one may have to have a fight, and the EU is prepared to do that. What we must do in generating civil-military integration and co-operation is to maintain sight of the fact that, first of all, we must retain critical mass for military planning, retain the military ethos; that of being a warrior. One may have to fight. One may have to take casualties. One may have to inflict casualties. And unless we are prepared to retain that as part of our ethos, then we are not militarily credible.

That leads on to the next ambition. Obviously, for operations, we must have the necessary capabilities. My predecessors here made good progress in many areas in that regard.

First of all, the ‘battlegroup’ concept reached initial operating capability in 2005, and has been fully operational since January of this year. Two battlegroups are on call, ready to go at any time during their respective six-month periods, and we need to have agile command and control to manage that well. What we have now is not bad, but it could be better. Other concerns include the battlegroup’s enablers. Here, we face the same problem as NATO – strategic lift. Who is going to produce it? Who is going to fund it? Will it be available on the day?

We have done some really good work on the headline goals. In doing this, we have looked very carefully at how NATO has done its business with defence planning questionnaires, so we have been able to capitalise on the lessons learned from that work. We are doing it for a slightly different purpose, so we have slightly different requirements and have set different targets. This work has been an extremely profitable exercise. Now we are just getting to the stage where we can draw conclusions from it in terms of the catalogue capability shortfalls and gaps, and also to see whether we cannot use European industry in some discrete areas to achieve better interoperability and gap-filling. Here the European Defence Agency has a role to play.

So again, we are at a point where we have done very good work. Now we come to the difficult bit. We have done the mechanical part – producing the data. We need to use that data both in the EU Military Staff, amongst the member states and in the European Defence Agency. That has actually complicated the work, both from a staff point of view and also from a political perspective. So that is the challenge, and it is going to require a lot of hard work.

We are very small. The EU Military Staff has only 178 military people, and so we need to smarten the way we plan at the strategic level.

NR: What lessons were drawn from EUFOR in Congo last summer?
Gen. Leakey: Congo was a success. We got the EU deployed – a couple of thousand people out to a place a long way away, with an operational headquarters – and that was a great success. We put a force in theatre that did its job and returned. We had some luck, but every operation needs its share of luck. So it was a success. But one of the many lessons is that at the military strategic level, we need to smooth political-military planning within our mechanisms. And that means looking at any lessons learned immediately.

NR: When will the ‘lessons learned’ process be completed?
Gen. Leakey: In about ten years’ time. This is a serious point because we may not have the same operation again for another decade, and some of the lessons will not apply to the next four operations we do. Some of them will not apply unless we go to the Congo again. So when I say ten years time, that’s what I mean.

The first thing we’ve learned is that we must have these lessons available on an accessible database where we can find and retrieve them. So there is a process point here, and one of the things that we are doing is setting up a software-enhanced lessons-learned database. We have had a look at the NATO system, we have been to some member states and we looked at what they have, and we have optimised a solution which we think is going to be at the front edge of how these things are done. There is a lot of experience around, and as I say, the key thing is to be able to make the lessons accessible to the people who need them.

NR: What are your staff’s contacts and relationships with NATO like?
Gen. Leakey: We do have staff-to-staff contacts. Every single day I hear that my staff has had NATO people in here, or that we have been up to NATO to discuss any of a whole range of issues – everything from looking at each others’ lessons-learned databases to see how we do things, to the Strategic Airlift Interim Solution contract. We are sharing the responsibilities and partnership strategic airlift in Sudan.

Our cell in SHAPE [Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe], which gives us a common liaison there, and the NATO permanent liaison team in my headquarters here are working on technical agreements with NATO for the upcoming ESDP mission in Kosovo. We are also doing a lot of planning work for the ESDP police mission in Afghanistan with the Provincial Reconstruction Teams [PRTs].

At the higher levels, the [EU and NATO] military committees meet together, the PSC-NAC [Political and Security Committee-North Atlantic Council] meet together, and the two secretary generals meet together. So are relations good? The answer is yes and no. When the [personal] relationships are good, then relations are good. And when they are not so good, well, then they need to be improved. If I think back to when I was in Bosnia as commander of EUFOR under Berlin Plus, I remember that we had some real challenges there – and the issues just need working through.

It is a credit to both organisations that the respective staffs take pride and demonstrate a bit of corporate identity – and we need to respect that. But actually, both at the political level and at the highest command levels there is openness and a realisation that we are all working towards the same overarching goal. I remember SACEUR [then Supreme Allied Commander, General James Jones] saying, “I am committed to making sure that the EUFOR operation is a success in Bosnia.” And down at the working levels, I can honestly say that it worked pretty well, and I think that is the same for both the Kosovo and Afghanistan planning. There will be some teething problems at the start to divide up and sort out. For example, the issue of who is going to pay. Or of who really has the responsibility. Or whether we need to get political clearance of the staff arrangement that we are making.

These things were the same, for example, when the EU worked with the UN in the recent operation. And they were the same when NATO and the EU collaborated in Kosovo. It takes a bit of time, too, because each organisation and every context is different.

People only hear the bad news stories. When a NATO or an EU official says that things have gone from bad to worse in any given situation, then it may well have been on one subject on a particular day. In my view, the general trend is onwards and upwards.

NR: As far as capabilities are concerned, what is the division of labour between the European Defence Agency (EDA) and the EUMS?
Gen. Leakey: There is not an absolutely concrete, black-and-white dividing line between the two. In fact, if there was, then we should start worrying because, for example, all of our work that is going on in the capability area feeds into the EDA. So there is a dialogue. There are people from the EDA working in here who bring stuff out of the EUMS on a daily basis, and we have got our own guys over in the EDA talking about other things and feeding into that organisation.

When we hand data or information, requirements that we have identified, lessons learned, from the EUMS to the EDA, they take and use them for some of their own agendas, like capability gaps, research and development. The EDA looks at the long term and tries to extrapolate using our lessons learned and our doctrine work.

It is a cooperative thing and I think it is rather good. On some things we have to work in very close partnership. For example, with network-enhanced capability and information exchange requirements, there is a lot of work that the EDA cannot do unless the EUMS establishes the baseline for it.

They have a different set of outputs – based on research and capability – in terms of equipment, development and so on. That is EDA’s objective. The EUMS’ output and delivery is operational. The EDA’s is some way out in the future. Ours tend to be here and now. But one cannot live without the other.

NR: As far as coordination with NATO is concerned; how is the NATO Response Force (NRF) deconflicted from the EU battlegroups?
Gen. Leakey: The battlegroups are discrete – they are assigned for EU use only during their rotation. Each battlegroup is uniquely assigned when it comes onto the roster. It is not double-hatted. So if there is a place where, for example, a catastrophe breaks out, we might be invited by the UN to go and put in a bridging operation until the UN accomplishes its force generation. Then we would ring up one of the battlegroups which is allocated for EU use. So there is no conflict. The battlegroups on the roster are available, and they are not assigned to anyone else.

NR: As the first commander of EUFOR in Bosnia, how did Berlin Plus work in practice?
Gen. Leakey: From the very outset, Berlin Plus worked because the Secretary General and SACEUR passed a message down the NATO chain of command that Berlin Plus was to work. And so there was, first of all, the political will and a real can-do spirit. Second, it worked because many of the people on the ground in SFOR [NATO Stabilisation Force], both in the headquarters and out in the force, transferred across into EUFOR. That really helped, made it easier. So the spirit was right.

We learned some lessons about cost-sharing agreements, intelligence-sharing and some procedural points. We also learned lessons about having a clear delineation of tasks whenever there are NATO and EU military operations in the same theatre.

We had a seamless transition from SFOR into EUFOR, continuous access to the intelligence databases and generally good transfers of intelligence. We had no interruption in CIS [communication and information system] provision for headquarters EUFOR, which was achieved under Berlin Plus. We were running rehearsals for the operation reserve into Bosnia, which was coordinated by the EU and NATO. That worked pretty well.

But what is interesting about the EUFOR operation down in Bosnia is that the EU took over that operation from NATO for a variety of reasons. NATO thought that it was the right time, that they had done their bit. The juncture where Bosnia had reached was that it needed an all-EU integrated solution for the future. So it made sense to hand the military aspect as well as the civilian fields over to the growing EU presence.

NR: With the downsizing of EUFOR, given how small the force is becoming, is Berlin Plus even necessary anymore?
Gen. Leakey: Berlin Plus is still necessary because there are shared reserves. That is critical. Berlin Plus still works because a lot of the command and control from Brussels down to the operation headquarters is still provided by SHAPE. That is Berlin Plus. You cannot get around that.

NR: So this could not be done by an EU operational headquarters?
Gen. Leakey: It could, but there is no point in changing the command and control framework now. For the Berlin Plus organisation with the operational headquarters, it works very well. It ain’t broke, so don't fix it.

NR: Is the EUMS planning the Afghanistan and Kosovo missions and their coordination with the NATO forces there?
Gen. Leakey: Yes, but there is a civilian lead because these are civilian operations – police, justice and rule of law missions – that are going into Kosovo and Afghanistan. Civilian, not military. But we are providing support for the planning and preparation of those missions, support which will cover a whole spectrum of things which ensure that civilian planners who are experts in the police, rule of law and justice fields know exactly what they are trying to do, what their objectives are.

But there are also things which we can help with. For example, ensuring that they have thought through the CIS implications and that have they have a good plan for that CIS. And that they have thought through the security situation on the ground and made the necessary arrangements, particularly with NATO, for their own security and protection. The military knows very well what the intelligence considerations are, the availability of databases. Have we made good technical arrangements to have access to databases? Have we got the right people, and the right clearances?

There are a whole lot of things which the military can do to help the civilians better plan their operations. We can provide planning expertise, experience, knowledge and sometimes direct planning support – because that is what we do all the time. For example, in the Aceh mission in Indonesia, more than half the people were military because, under the circumstances, they were the right people to be doing the job. That required some military advice in the planning and construct of the mission. It was not a military mission, but that is a way to make a civilian mission more effective: give them more structured planning, a stronger plan and access to some of the available support.

But that is not to prejudice the civilian leadership of the civilian missions, nor is it to prejudice the ethos of the military force that must be prepared to fight. Even in the most benign deterrence, reassurance or peacekeeping operation, when a soldier gets shot at, for him it is high intensity warfare. He needs to be able to do all the right things at the right time and not say: “Well, I thought I was here peacekeeping. Where is the peace?”

In this world of extraordinary instability, many wars don't end up with a result. We usually stop them halfway through. And it is in those areas of instability that our soldiers have to project themselves. They must be prepared to fight if necessary, if they come under attack or if there is a serious protection issue where they need to become a little bit offensive in their defence.

Whether it is in Afghanistan, Iraq or the Balkans, there are never going to be enough carabinieri, gendarmes, customs people, border patrols or advance people, and some of these jobs are not necessarily out of the combat handbook, but soldiers need to be adaptive.