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Updated: 16-nov-06 NATO IMS Speech

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16 Nov. 2006

Statement to the press

by General Ray Henault, Chairman of the Military Committee
at the press conference following the meeting of the Military Committee
at the level of Chiefs of Defence

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Good afternoon and thank you for your interest in NATO military activities.  I am in between meetings right now but I wanted to take this time to update you on the work of the NATO Military Committee, which is in Chiefs of Defence Staff Session.

With less than two weeks remaining before the NATO Summit in Riga, our meetings yesterday and today are important in terms of shaping and informing the military advice and military deliverables to the North Atlantic Council.

There is no doubt around the table that 2006 has been a watershed year for the Alliance. With 6 successful operations on 3 continents and 50,000 troops under NATO command, the Alliance has never been in more demand.  From my perspective we are delivering on our operational commitments and adjusting our policies, processes and mechanisms to meet these demands. 

Clearly the NATO operation in Afghanistan has been prominent in our agenda and the discussions. Frank views were exchanged respecting force generation and the issue of reducing caveats, those being restrictions on the use of some nations’ forces.

We have made some headway on both over the past months, and I welcome what nations have done, but the case was strongly put that we can do better. There remain shortfalls in the personnel and equipment requirements for Afghanistan, which nations have committed to trying to resolve. Nations are clearly seized of this issue, and the need to redouble their efforts to satisfy operational requirements.

It remains our collective assessment that NATO’s robust military presence in Afghanistan – more than 30,000-plus troops from 37 NATO and Partner countries - to deter, disrupt and defeat opposing militant forces, is helping to set the conditions for more reconstruction and development. We are also of common purpose respecting our long-term commitment to Afghanistan, and to the end state.

Many national development indicators are positive, they continue to show an upward trend and this is very encouraging to us and to Afghanis. Our 24 Provincial Reconstruction Teams throughout the country are helping facilitate progress, but the  challenge for NATO and for the international community remains significant. We encourage a more coherent and more coordinated approach to reconstruction and development by the international community.

The Military Committee also reviewed progress on our other ongoing operations, including Kosovo where 16,000 NATO personnel are currently deployed.

We discussed how to continue building capability into the NATO Response Force and sustaining it over the long term. And, we assessed the military implications of the new Ministerial Guidance, which sets out the political level of ambition for NATO’s military forces.  We also reviewed work on transformational initiatives including special operating forces, and NATO training activities with non-NATO nations.  

Earlier today we met with senior military representatives from NATO’s seven Mediterranean Dialogue countries: Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia.  We discussed ways to collectively combat terrorism including intelligence sharing, and reviewed elements of our exercises and operations program.

And, in a separate session this morning, the NATO Chiefs of Defence met with the 20 representatives of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Committee (EAPC), where the need to enhance interoperability through training and NATO exercises was endorsed by the group. 

Separate meetings with the Chief of Defence from the Ukraine and with Russia will take place this afternoon.  It is expected we will agree to expand our cooperation activities by approving military work plans for the coming year.     
The two days of formal meetings have provided an excellent opportunity to discuss ALL of these issues face-to-face, and will help inform the military advice to be brought forward to NATO Heads of State at Riga.

With that, thank you very much for being here this afternoon. I stand ready for questions.

Yes, please.

Q: Mark John from Reuters News Agency. Could you quantify for us where the outstanding shortfalls in the NRF are at the moment and in what rotation they fall? And were there any offers or any indications that were given over the last couple of days about how these might be filled?

Henault: Well the NRF requirements are very broad-based and we're not looking just at the upcoming or the most immediate NRF rotation. We're looking at NRF Rotation 8, which is the one which starts in January. We're looking well beyond that into 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 and really that's because we are very specifically and critically committed to sustaining the NRF capability in the long term.

At the moment General Jones SACEUR is committed to making recommendations to the Military Committee and the Council as to the achievability and the ability to declare full-op capability. We haven't received that yet. There are still a number of force generation discussions that are going on with various nations between General Jones, myself and the Chiefs of Defence and governments of the nations that are providing and will particularly or potentially provide. We're looking primarily for some enhancements in some of the areas, particularly in the logistics field and intelligence surveillance and so on.But it's hard to pin down for you exactly where those are because across the different NRF serials there are requirements that aren't totally filled yet in a number of different areas.

We have had some indications, some encouraging indications, over the last day or so of potential contributions and we'll get a confirmation of that at the Force Generation Conference which will be held in SHAPE next week. So that is really our target now, is to bring all this together prior to the Riga Summit and we'll stand by for SACEUR's recommendation in that respect.

Q: And the shortfall is in terms of troops or equipment or -

Henault: It's a combination of both of those.
Yes, please.

Q: Sorry. Paul Ames from the Associated Press. Just a quick follow-up on that. How confident are you that General Jones will be able to recommend that the NRF be declared fully operational before the Riga Summit? And secondly if I may, you said there was progress on Afghanistan in terms of filling some of the gaps. Could you give us a few details about where that progress came? What gaps have been filled?

Henault: Well let me start with the NRF. I'm going to have to wait until General Jones makes his decision. I mean he has been committed by the North Atlantic Council to do that. I would say that I'm cautiously optimistic, but I need General Jones to make that decision unfettered and so we'll wait until he makes his recommendations to us. But I reinforce that we were given some encouraging signals of potential additional contributions which will undoubtedly help and hopefully it will be enough, but I can't confirm that for you just yet.

Your second point was about CJSOR for Afghanistan I believe. There again there were no specific commitments made to us over the last day or so. Those commitments by the way are not made in the Military Committee. We discuss policy, procedures, overall strategy and requirements across the Alliance spectrum. The actual force generation concept and the force generation activity is done in SHAPE at the headquarters in Mons. And so to formalize anything that we have discussed, that will have to be done at the Force Generation Conference next week.

But there's a combination of things that will help us in Afghanistan. One is some additional contribution, in particular in terms of the stage three area or the southern area that we have undertaken. And secondly, the reduction of caveats or limitations to the use of troops. And we're most specifically focused at the moment on completing the fill of the Combined Joint Statement of Requirement as it has been developed and has been structured to respond to the requirements of the operations plan approved by nations.

And secondly, to minimizing geographical caveats for the use of troops across the spectrum of Afghanistan, which gives the commander the flexibility he needs to do the various jobs he has and to satisfy the requirements, especially those of the threats that we have faced in terms of opposing militant forces.

So we're hopeful and we'll hope that the next week or so gives us some cause for celebration.

Yes?

Q: General Lee Dufield(?), NRN Australia. The caveats - are these applying to the contact forces as well, groups from the contact countries? And secondly, generally what is NATO expecting of the contact groups in terms of your discussion today?

Henault: Well contact countries are very important to us by the way and we very much value and welcome the contribution and appreciate the contributions of contact countries like Australia. What we assume and we hope and in fact what is done when contact countries provide us with contributions, is to ensure that they're fully interoperable with NATO and that is the case in the case of all of the contributions that we have in Afghanistan. In fact, we're not only building interoperability with partner nations and with contact countries, but also building our interoperability with Afghan security forces. I mean that's another important, very important, dimension of what we're doing.

And we're also building more solid and more capable and effective relationships with bordering countries, in particular with Pakistan where we have a tripartite commission which helps us to better determine the security and stability requirements, especially along the borders and so on. So it's a very broad-based level of activity in that context.

In terms of caveats for contact countries, again we hope that contact countries will provide contributions with a minimum of caveats, understanding that there will always be some caveats. And that's something that I would acknowledge in that there are national laws, there are national limitations which sometimes cause countries to put in place limitations on the use of their troops. But what we are looking for most specifically is a minimum number of geographical limitations so that the Commander of ISAF, and that's where the responsibility lies, is able to move troops to where he needs them depending on the threat that he's facing or the situation that he's trying to take hold of.

So we look forward to the contact countries having the same basic operating principles and of course the interoperability completed that allows us to operate seamlessly across the spectrum.

Yes, oui, Monsieur.

Q:  Est-ce que je peux poser une question en français?  (...)  Oui, c'est toujours à propos de l'Afghanistan.  Est-ce que vous pourriez être un tout petit peu plus précis sur les progrès qui ont déjà été faits en matière de levée des caveat, sans vous demander des noms, au moins je pense que l'Espagne, l'Italie, l'Allemagne et la France sont concernées?  Est-ce que vous pouvez le confirmer?  Et deuxièmement, sur le plan militaire réel, est-ce que l'envoi d'une compagnie de 100 ou 200 hommes dans le sud de l'Afghanistan là où les troupes canadiennes se battent alors qu'elles sont là pour un mandat de trois ans changent-ils fondamentalement les choses sur le plan militaire?  Ou est-ce que vous reconnaissez qu'il y a aussi un aspect politique, je dirais, non seulement de politique intérieure canadienne, mais de politique à l'intérieur de l'OTAN dans cette question.

Henault: Votre première question, c'est encore reliée aux caveat.  Je ne viserais pas aucun pays parce que tous les pays ont certains caveat.  Alors, nous avons demandé que tous les pays révisent leurs caveat et autant que possible et à l'intérieur des lois nationales qui en font partie, que ces pays essaient de limiter autant que possible leurs caveat, surtout les caveat géographiques, c'est-à-dire les caveat qui limitent l'étendue dans lequel... sur la surface de l'Afghanistan que ces troupes peuvent être employées.

Je ne peux pas vous donner de détails parce que les pays, en grande ligne, ont quand même assuré que c'était quelque chose qui inquiétait tout le monde, inquiétait tous les pays en théâtre, tous les pays doivent quand même avoir grande confiance qu'en temps de besoin les troupes en théâtre puissent venir en aide à des pays, surtout en conditions extrémistes.

Et puis on a quand même eu un commitment de la part de tous les chefs de défense de réviser à tous les points de vue les caveat et les minimiser autant que possible.  Alors, je ne peux pas vous donner de détails parce que je n'ai pas de commitment encore.  Mais nous espérons que ça nous viendra par l'entremise de la chaîne de commandement, c'est-à-dire par l'entremise de SHAPE, pour confirmer la capacité de flexibilité que nous demandons de la part de tous les pays. 

En ce qui concerne la mission elle-même, vous avez demandé s'il y avait une connotation politique aussi bien que militaire.  Nous avons bien reconnu... Et les chefs ont mis l'emphase sur le fait que la mission en Afghanistan demande la participation de troupes comme de raison, la sécurité et la stabilité est très importante.  Mais sans la sécurité et surtout sans la stabilité il n'y aucun développement.  Et sans un développement continu, il n'y aucune stabilité. 

Alors, les deux vont ensemble; et les deux ne peuvent être accomplis qu'avec la participation d'entités civiles, c'est-à-dire d'entités qui soient gouvernementales ou d'organisations internationales avec le militaire pour atteindre le but, le but final c'est-à-dire de réétablir la stabilité au travers du pays, encourager la reconstruction et le développement et finalement être capable éventuellement de redonner aux Afghans la responsabilité de gérer le pays eux-mêmes.  Alors, c'est le but à long terme.  On ne peut pas de timing là-dessus dans le moment.  Mais certainement, c'est notre but collectif à long terme. 

Q: Ingrid (inaudible) from the Spanish Agency FA.. Was there any concern at the meeting about the growing violence in Afghanistan and any ideas on how to tackle this?

Henault: Well of course we're always very concerned about violence in Afghanistan and I would reinforce the fact that as expansion has gone  on in Afghanistan as we've gone from Kabul specifically in a counter-clockwise fashion from the northern to the western to the southern and then the eastern regions, we have seen an increased level of violence and resistance to NATO expansion, especially in the southern and eastern regions of Afghanistan. I would note for you that the stability and security situation in Kabul for example has led to a tremendous amount of development there and their economy is growing. The security situation there, although challenged by improvised explosive devices, suicide attacks and things of that nature, is nonetheless going very well. And so we're seeing improvements in Kabul itself.

We're seeing some reasonable stability, a relative level of stability in the northern and the western regions, but in the southern and eastern regions, there is a continuing opposition on the part of the insurgents and one that we have to deal with. What I would comment on is that NATO, although it may not have totally anticipated the level of violence that we were facing, or had faced and have now overcome in the southern region, nonetheless was able to rise to the challenge and that's an important fact.

And I say that because all of the troops who were involved in the southern region and elsewhere in Afghanistan, because there are threats across the nation, have really risen to this challenge and have shown that NATO is capable of doing what it needs to do to do the job that its been committed to by the Alliance and that is to maintain security and stability. And if that means combat operations, the NATO forces have done that and so I'm very complimentary of that and I encourage that, encourage continued participation and continued observance if you like of the op-plan directives. And what troops are doing in Afghanistan is totally in line with what the operations plan calls for and that is setting the security and stability situation that allows for reconstruction and development and that being done through a number of mechanisms, including Afghan development zones and very close co-operation with government and both federal and provincial level organizations.

But we always are concerned about the security situation and the violence. We continually review the processes and procedures that are used, the force protection measures and where required, we put in place the additional equipment or people that are essential. And that, again, we depend on the Commander of ISAF to give us recommendations on through the Supreme Allied Commander Europe and up to the Military Committee and obviously the Council. So far we are very confident with what's being done and I would remind you that we're really at the very close end of this total expansion in Afghanistan. We only took over the eastern region of Afghanistan on the 5th of October, so we are learning lessons as we go along and we're learning how to better satisfy the overall security requirements of the nation as we progress.

I hope that answers your specific question.

Q: General I just wanted to follow-up the questions on caveats. You mentioned that Chiefs of Defence Staff made commitments to review their caveats. I seem to remember they made exactly the same commitment at the meeting in Warsaw six or seven weeks ago and yet so far we haven't seen any public statements that would indicate that this review has caused any result at all on the ground. Is that correct or if it's wrong, could you actually explain why it's wrong by giving us actual specifics?

Henault: Well I can't give you specifics because if I were to tell you what the specifics of caveats are, I'm actually divulging things which may have security implications and so therefore I'm not prepared to go into the detail of caveats.

But what I can tell you is that based on the discussions we had in Poland back in September, there have been caveats lifted by a number of nations, or at least caveats have been modified to better allow the use of troops across the spectrum and so we're very encouraged by that. But we still have caveats that are limiting the full flexibility that the commander there has called for and we'll continue to need for the foreseeable future. And so therefore we've redoubled our emphasis on the lifting of caveats and we've asserted... I've asserted and the Chiefs themselves have asserted the absolute need to look at what we can do to minimize caveats wherever possible.

I would relate this to one other thing perhaps because I think it's important to remind ourselves of successes and we have see a very successful operation in Kosovo when Kosovo was under a brigade structure for a long period of time. Over the last year we've gone through a renewal process if you like, or restructuring process, in Kosovo which has eliminated brigade boundaries and things of that nature and re-established a task force structure which allows for full movement of troops across the entire surface of Kosovo which has given the commander there full flexibility and a very limited number of caveats. In fact, the example in Kosovo of a small number of caveats and the willingness of nations to allow their forces to be used in the most effective way by the commanders on the ground is a great example for what we need to do in Afghanistan.

So we've seen good success there. We've seen very good security and stability through the current range of status talks that we've seen and we're prepared for whatever comes next in that context as well, again, fuelled by this limited number of caveats.

The last thing I'll say about caveats is that the lower the number of caveats, the better your operational effectiveness is overall and certainly it's a force multiplier, a force enhancer that we believe very strongly in. So we'll continue emphasizing that and I'm sure this will be a continued item of discussion, not only here in military circles, but also at the political level.

 
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