SACEUR’s three big agenda items for 2013

Admiral James Stavridis, NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe

From James Stavridis, Allied Command Operations:  As I look at NATO and U.S. European Command in 2013, I see three big agenda items.

First, we have to get Afghanistan right as we shift our mission from combat, to train, advise and assist. We’ve laid the right tracks for the change in early 2015. At the moment, we are working with all 28 NATO nations and with a number of potential partners to define the new mission post-2014.

I think that means:

– Forces not only in Kabul, but in Mazer (northern), Herat (west), Kandahar (south), and Bagram (east). Geography and distribution of forces have an important power in the narrative.
– Training, assisting, and mentoring at least down to the Corps level — and the equivalent in the police forces.
– Enablers for force protection, intelligence, medical response, fire support, air fires, quick reaction, and logistics. This means doing these things for the coalition troops, and helping the Afghans develop their own ability.
Second, we need to improve where we are with cyber security. In cyber, we have the greatest mismatch between level of threat (high) and level of preparation (low). In most other areas (proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, counter-trafficking, Afghanistan, Balkans, anti-piracy, etc…), we are far more prepared for our role.
 Therefore we should:

– Improve and expand the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence in Tallinn, Estonia  (a nation that has suffered a cyber attack). Today 15 nations are part of the CCDCOE, and it should  be many more

– Develop our ability to repulse cyber attacks as an alliance, at our NATO Command Structures — SHAPE in Mons and the Joint Force and Component Commands in Mons, Brunssum, Naples, Izmir,  Northwood, and Ramstein.
– Work to encourage allies to join together in sharing information, intelligence, tactics, techniques, and procedures for defensive counter-cyber activity.
Define a "cyber attack" in the context of the NATO Treaty — it was signed in 1949 and does not adequately define what constitutes an attack in an Article V context.

Third, we need to keep defending NATO’s border with Syria. We’re off to a good start by protecting more than 3 million people who live near the NATO border with Syria from ballistic missile attacks. In my capacity as U.S. European Commander, I believe that the real threat is chemical weapons.

We should:

– Continually monitor the situation in depth and support the UN efforts to investigate recent claims of chemical weapons use.

– Ensure Turkey receives full protection from the NATO Alliance from external threats.
– Be prepared to assist with the growing humanitarian crisis resulting from the Syrian conflict. For example, Turkey has taken on more than 100,000 refugees since the conflict began.
– Be prepared to undertake further missions as agreed by the 28 nations of NATO.

This week I will be traveling to Turkey to discuss Syria and ensure we are doing everything we should as an Alliance for them. I will also talk about the potential for warmer relations with Israel.

Next I will travel to Georgia (a strong U.S. and NATO partner in Afghanistan, where their 1,500 troops make them the largest non-NATO troop contributing nation of the 50 in the coalition).

Finally, in my capacity as U.S. European Commander, I will visit Israel to make sure that the U.S.-Israel military connection remains strong and vibrant given all the challenges in the neighbourhood. I’m confident it is in good shape, but I want to listen to our Israeli friends, and explore the possibility of a rapprochement with Turkey.

A busy week, but lots to discuss … we have to build bridges in this 21st century with partners, both for NATO and the U.S. 

James Stavridis, Admiral, USN; Supreme Allied Commander, Europe; Commander, US European Command; "Stronger Together."   (photo: Micahel Abrams/Stars and Stripes)

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