FREDERICK KEMPE: Greetings. I’m Fred Kempe, president and CEO of the Atlantic Council, and it’s a pleasure for me to welcome you all to this installment, a very important installment, of our Commander Series, which is one of the most popular things we do here, bringing some of the leading U.S. and European commanders to the Atlantic Council to talk about their work outside of Washington.
This whole series is made possible through the generous sponsorship of SAAB. I want to thank our board member Henrik Liljgren and also senior vice president, Lars Bjerde, who is with us tonight as well, from SAAB.
It’s my great pleasure today to welcome an impressive leader, as well as a great friend of the Atlantic Council, General John Craddock, supreme allied commander of the NATO Alliance and commander of the United States European Command.
General Craddock has served in the United States Army with great distinction for three decades. He has commanded two U.S. combatant commands. There aren’t a lot of people who have done that, serving as commander of the U.S. Southern Command prior to leading the U.S. European Command in February of 2007.
Since becoming supreme allied commander Europe – and, General Craddock, I really am envious; I’ve always wanted the title supreme something, but – (chuckles) – since becoming supreme allied commander Europe, General Craddock has served admirably in what is perhaps the most challenging military command in the world because it requires not only military knowledge and military leadership but an enormous amount of diplomatic skill, leading a quite diverse group of countries.
We are a funny place, the Atlantic Council, because for us you’re our star. If we were doing “American Idol” we would have a bunch of “Supremes” up here singing for their supper, because you are really our key person at the Atlantic Council and the kind of support we try to give is to the work you do and to the work other people like you do.
Over the years we’ve had people at the Atlantic Council and serving as supreme allied commander Europe such as General Eisenhower, General Goodpaster, General Hague, of course General Jones, who has now become the supreme allied – excuse me – (laughter) – I’ve given him his old job again – the National Security advisor.
General Craddock has served not only as the leading soldier of the NATO Alliance but also as a statesman and spokesman, promoting the values and ideals of the alliance throughout the world. He testifies, perhaps through his experience, to what – to paraphrase Churchill – that the only thing worse than having to work with allies is not having allies at all.
The title of General Craddock’s speech today is “NATO 2010 and Beyond: The Supreme Allied Commander Perspective.” Coming off the 60th anniversary summit in Strasbourg, there could scarcely be a better time to hear such an experienced NATO commander offer his thoughts on the future.
But let me say just a couple of things because he’s going to be focusing on NATO, which is urgent and present, and the future there, but also on the alliance, which is ongoing and of constant interest to us here at the Atlantic Council. And I think that both the future of our operations in Afghanistan plus the longer-term future of the alliance are at a critical juncture right now, and we’re going to hear about both today.
Clearly there’s news. We had the trilateral meeting in Washington last week with the leaders of Pakistan and Afghanistan. We had the news today of the sudden replacement of General McKiernan as commander of U.S. Force Afghanistan. We look forward to hearing the thoughts of General Craddock on these significant events, as well as the new U.S. strategy for the region and how it will influence NATO’s Mission Afghanistan.
NATO has also got to learn how to keep consensus and maintain its political will. How will NATO avoid a two-tiered alliance: some who will fight, some who might not want to fight in quite the same way?
Also, how do we take on new security challenges: piracy, cyber-security, arms proliferation, energy security, and all sorts of other 21st century threats? Where does NATO fit in? Where does the new strategic concept fit in? I know we’ll hear about that as well ahead of the Lisbon summit in 2010, which will be dealing with this.
Let me just end by saying that the Atlantic Council and our partner think tanks offered our own suggestions for the future of the alliance through our “Alliance Reborn” report released in January 2009. Senator Kerry, head of the Foreign Relations Committee, has called our work on Afghanistan “seminal.”
We have just released a new report from our new South Asia Center on Pakistan that tries to map a way forward. And just last week Damon Wilson, our new director of the Program for International Security, offered his own thoughts on NATO’s future direction in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
So our public events, General Craddock, fit very much into the work that we’re doing day in and day out. For us, what you’re going to talk about tonight is at the heart of what the Atlantic Council is working on.
But everyone came here today not to hear me, but the thoughts of a seasoned and experienced NATO commander on the future direction of the alliance, challenges and obstacles that we’ll face in 2010 and beyond, and the steps the new leadership of the alliance must tackle to take them effectively.
So before I invite you to the podium, General Craddock, let me just remind you that this is an end-of-tour report. This, in a way – I don’t want to call it the swan song because you have a couple of months yet left, but we will be very happy to hear your most candid thoughts because I think only that will help us really figure out how we can map the way forward.
Thank you, General Craddock.
GENERAL JOHN CRADDOCK: Well, thank you very much for that most warm introduction. I must say if my dear mother were here she probably would have shed a tear when she heard that, but of course she cries at beer commercials because she’s Irish – (laughter) – so I’m not sure that makes much difference anyway, so we’ll see how that goes. Thank you.
I appreciate the invitation to be here with you today. Indeed, I enjoy the opportunity. He’s a little taller than I am, so we’ve got to get this thing organized.
You know, Fred talked about this, my end of tour – not quite – but when he first broached it with me, the notion was, well, maybe this will be the valedictory speech that I can provide here to the Atlantic Council, and, you know, I looked at that a minute and I said, that’s probably not correct because the valedictory is for the student with the highest academic ranking in any organization and I am completely foreign to that honor. So we’ll go probably with an end-of-tour at least for the time being, but thank you for that.
And what did you say, two months – my farewell, a couple months left in command? And I’m starting to think about what’s next, I guess much like Tom Brady or Ben Roethlisberger. Maybe I could just tell you that I’m going to go to Disney World. (Laughter.) And I’ll just let you know my staff thinks that I’m a sure thing to make the Seven Dwarfs and be Grumpy – (laughter) – so, you know, that’s probably fair enough.
But first things first, and let me just share with you a few thoughts. And I’ve got to start on NATO with Afghanistan because, as the secretary general has said repeatedly – and you know this – it’s job one and we cannot fail.
So I’d like to discuss maybe some – about Afghanistan, where I think we are, some current realities as the alliance proceeds down the path towards this new strategic concept that’s been tasked by the heads of state and government at the 60th summit, that we just finished. And then I want to finish up with maybe some things that are on my mind that I could share with you. So, first let me go to Afghanistan and NATO ISAF.
To review, to set the state on context, NATO has three lines of operation, three strategic objectives, if you will. First is security and stability, the second is governance, and the third is reconstruction and development. While we have direct responsibility for the first, security and stability, we have indirect support and responsibility for the other two: governance and reconstruction and development. But we know they are all intertwined.
Now, I will tell you that two years ago when we looked at this and we said, how do they relate and how does one of those lines of operation influence or impact or affect the other, I got some pushback from members of the North Atlantic Council telling me, SACEUR, you stay out of everything but security and stability because we’re not going to get into nation-building. That’s not what we do.
Well, fair enough, but if you look at what we do and you look at the environment, you cannot stay out of those other lines of operation. They are part and parcel of security and stability.
Now, let me start with our direct responsibility: security. I think the assessment that I have given – and I think it’s probably shared – is that we are making slow progress in part of the country, most of the country, but we are stalemated in the south and in the east due to the virulent nature of the insurgency. And it is a different insurgency in the east and the south, and we have to understand that and recognize that and approach it differently because of that nature of the threat.
Two factors enter into our ability to prevail in the security line of operation. The first is Pakistan. With Pakistan not being yet able to control its border area and sanctuaries accruing to the Taliban, either in the east or in the south, we cannot prevail in the security arena in Afghanistan until that control is taken. If not control, at least greater control than there is now. So that’s the first key factor that will influence our ability to secure the east and the south of Afghanistan.
Secondly then is the narcotics industry. The proceeds from that, the money being made from it – the enormous amounts of money being made; I just saw new estimates of – and I think Ashraf Ghani talked about close to 4 billion (dollars) annually – are feeding the insurgency. They pay for the weapons, the soldiers, the bomb-makers, the IED material, the suicide bombers, and it feeds corruption throughout the country.
It is an enormous source of revenue for both the insurgents and for those corrupt government and non-government officials. So that has to be dealt with, and there are steps that are being taken now to start doing that, and it is reasonably successful to date, but still far, far to go.
Governance. I think governance is the critical path. While we cannot direct good governance, we can support good government officials. We can mentor those who are not so good to get better in the conduct of security operations. We can be perfect in the security arena, and if governance fails, we fail. I think that’s a fact.
The second point of this is that regardless of how we assess governance, it’s up to the Afghan people. And if they are unconvinced that government, as they see it, whether it’s district, provincial or central government, is a positive factor in their life, then the success of the mission is at risk. They have to be convinced that their government is something they want and serves their interest, and they are not there at this time.
Reconstruction and development. I think what you are seeing in the east is enormous amounts of reconstruction and development, and what you are seeing the east in terms of the attacks, the increase in Taliban insurgent efforts, is because of that. We build; they destroy.
Whether it’s east, whether it’s south, whether it’s in the Pashtun pockets west or north, we build in many fashions and forms. They try to destroy it because the insurgents understand, if that reconstruction stays, if the development stays, the creation of jobs and opportunity, then they will lose. So they are trying to take that away from the people and convince them the government cannot secure it and their way is the only way.
So I think, again, my second point here, my assessment; I think that the mission in Afghanistan right now is a textbook illustration of imbalance, from the beginning. What imbalance am I talking about? It’s the imbalance between the level of ambition that NATO subscribed to and the political will to resource it, both in the short and the long run.
And I think it’s manifested and exemplified day to day by the lack of a full troop list, a combined joint statement of requirements. NATO nations have yet to source all of the requirements that is in the operation plan when we started several years ago, when we took over in the fall of 2006 responsibility for the entire country, and the fact that constraints and limitations on the commitment of the forces provided are extant day to day, and that’s in the term of caveats.
So the question then becomes, what is the priority interest: national or alliance? And in Afghanistan it’s a mixed bag, but until we can achieve greater balance between the two, national and alliance interest, I think we’re still going to have this imbalance and we’ve got to tip the scales in a more favorable way.
I’m probably being harsh here, but I also believe that much of this is due to the fact that political leadership in NATO is AWOL. I think that in many cases political leaders have to determine what is in the best interest of their nation, and if it’s not popular with their citizens, then it’s their role as a political leader to convince the citizenry to support the government position.
And I think that far too often many of our members and partners that is not the case, and that is why, to a great extent, this imbalance exists. So I think the fundamental question that has to be asked with regards to imbalance is, does the Washington Treaty carry the same obligation out of area as it does in area?
Next point with regards to Afghanistan, but it’s writ large and I’ll talk about it more later. Today we’re in operations. We are not planning and preparing for a war that never came, the Cold War. We are in operations.
In doing so, NATO has had to accommodate national interest to convince, permit or allow nations to contribute. Taken individually, a nation will decide to participate in ISAF, and in doing so participates with these limitations, and, taken individually, doesn’t look to be a bad thing, doesn’t look to be something that will cause problems.
The problem is generated when we either accept the limitation or we accommodate a specific requirement, and then over time those start to build on top of each other as other nations come in with complementary limitations or other accommodations they need, and pretty soon what we’ve done is we’ve built a situation where the limitations and constraints start to sink the ship.
And we’ve got a little bit of that now because we’ve got 70 caveats, down from 83 a year ago. But in Bucharest, at that summit in 2008, the fall of 2008, heads of state and government said, we are going to eliminate caveats – 83 then, 70 now. Progress, but not near enough.
And, secondly, the accommodations have created, to a certain extent, regional or provincial fiefdoms where nations will move in and they then develop their occupation plans, they develop their maneuver plans, they develop a concept of operation against a logistics tether or a headquarters tether that is bound by, for example, a provincial boundary or a regional boundary, and then they don’t want to do anything else when asked by ISAF to accommodate operations across the entire country.
And these are some of the constraints and limitations. So I think that these fiefdoms have to be acknowledged and realized, and we should never do this type of a situation, never accommodate this again. We have got to look at each one of these and the potential impact when they compound themselves as opposed to are taken autonomously, sterilely on an individual case.
Okay, enough said right now, and I will be willing and look forward to, I’m sure, questions about Afghanistan in the Q&A session, but let me now move over and transition to NATO, and NATO in the coming years.
I don’t think anyone would disagree with me when I say friction in NATO is nothing new. We have had it throughout the alliance’s history. And I think about every five to 10 years you can probably come up – if you want to go back, and we could do that – and talk through where we have had major points of friction in the alliance.
So the fact is we have that, we’ll have that, but it’s of a different dimension now that we have, every day, our forces in harm’s way in Afghanistan. And I think that we need to understand what that means and we have to have processes and procedures to address that. Far better today than when we were in a planning and preparing stage and we didn’t have forces deployed, as I said, in harm’s way.
At the 60th anniversary summit, as I said, the heads of state directed the alliance to develop a new strategic concept. I have been one who has been loudly saying that we must have a new strategic concept. Militarily, we must have a new strategic concept.
And the last one, the one we’re working under now, is 1999. I don’t have to tell you how much the world has changed. A different array of challenges, of threats, non-state, non-kinetic.
I think that the strategic concept has to set parameters on what the alliance believes its challenges and threats are, what the alliance then might do about them, where we will focus our interests in the future, where we won’t focus our interest, and provide a roadmap, if you will, of effort and define terms so that we don’t have ambiguity as we launch forward for the next 10 or 20 years, depending on what happens and what types of changes then define the horizon in the future.
This strategic concept has got to find balance, or at least attempt to strike a balance, between level of ambition and political will, which I think has been our nemesis for far too long. It’s got to be realistic.
With regard to what NATO nations, and/or partners – and we have to recognize that and it must define partners – but what we can generate with regard to capabilities – military capabilities, potentially political, economic capabilities that may be some other regional organization’s venue – and also capacity: how much, how far?
We’ll get into force planning constructs, capabilities packages, all the nuance, if you will, of NATO that’s got to be brought out into the open and I think brushed up with a wire brush and put back together again in a different fashion.
But our capabilities and capacities today are an area that I think we’ve got to focus on. My example that comes back all the time – the NATO command structure right now, across all the headquarters, and everyone decries the fact we have far too many headquarters but nations had the chance to reduce them and nation interest prevailed in the last Peacetime Engagement Review, the PE Review.
So we have these, but we’re manned at about 82 percent. So what that means is in my headquarters of about a thousand I’ve got a little over 800. It’s about 880 if you add up – so about 880. But that’s very high. We’re about 82 percent across the alliance in the command structure.
So the point is, is the political apparatus in NATO ready to take an 80-percent bite of the apple? Or how big a bite do they want to take? And that’s what’s got to get resolved then with the level of ambition and the political will to commit forces and resources to that.
And, lastly, I think that this new strategic concept must address the way ahead with Russia, the Russian Federation. Now, we’ve got to have a, I mean, coherent NATO construct with regards to how we will militarily engage, to what extent, with the Russian Federation.
I think we’re long overdue. We need that now. And I do applaud the fact that it looks like we’re at least starting to decide that we’ve got to talk now as opposed to close the doors.
In a recent Atlantic Council publication – and a couple of them here recently. Ashraf Ghani was excellent, and your follow up on the future of NATO, which also is very good.
And, Fred, I’m not trying to butter you up at all, in view of my looming unemployment – (laughter) – but – and to just let you know, I’m not sure what I’m qualified to do, quite frankly, but if you know somebody that likes to drive tanks and tell people smarter than them what to do, and get up and run early in the morning when it’s raining, then maybe I’ve got some work I can do for you.
But anyway, the article was very interesting, but it began with this, quote, “We have an open but fleeting moment to forge a more effective Atlantic partnership, and we must seize it now. Look, fair enough, but we’ve been saying that for some time. We have to seize this opportunity.
Well, we’ve got a strategic concept, the first in 10 years. If this isn’t an opportunity, I don’t know what it is. This alliance has been a pillar of strength, but it is challenged. It’s challenged internally, in my judgments; it’s challenged externally; it’s challenged by operations; it’s challenged by persistence, and I think that there has to be some agonizing reappraisals and this strategic concept I believe has to provide that.
We’ve got an opportunity here in this concept for a mandate, and it’s an opportunity that I think, given the timing with new faces in the alliance, heads of state and government, new leadership across the alliance from almost top to bottom, and new opportunities because of the challenges, along with the downturns, economic downturns being the first and foremost, I think that we have yet to really understand and feel the extent of.
So we’ve got to get this one better than we have and as close to right whatever that is, as possible, but I think we all have to play a part in this. So I’m hopeful and encouraged that this will be a good opportunity for the future.
So let me move on. And I would like to offer some thoughts or observations or notions about NATO. And this is obviously a bias from the military bias, the political perspective. So I apologize in advance for any disappointment for those of you that are looking for deep-thinking or intellectual revelations.
I’d call what follows things that make you go hmm. And perhaps this may serve to spark some discussion later, or perhaps it may serve to prematurely end my tenure. I don’t know. We’ll see how it goes.
First, one of those things that makes you go hmm: commanders’ urgent requirements in operations in Afghanistan. It readily became apparent about three years ago – and we took over now, remember, in the fall of ’06, October ’06, responsibility for the entire country, so even before that we realized a commander on the ground has requirements that NATO must fulfill.
They are of a NATO nature, not a national nature. And we’ve got some rules on that. But there was no process whereby the commander then could go ahead and fast-tract that requirement. The United States has that and many nations have that. Urgent operational requirement; you write a requirement up, it pushes up a fast track, gets stamped, goes to a service funds and move out and you get it procured and issued pretty quickly. Didn’t have it.
So NATO developed a commanders’ urgent requirement fast-track process. It was about nine months ago, late summer. Last year I said, how are we doing? And the answer is, working great. Well, how do we know? Because we’re using them. But how is it working? What’s urgent?
So we looked at it and we said, okay, right now the facts are in and an urgent requirement from the time initiated on the ground in Afghanistan to fulfillment was 80 weeks – eight-zero. I said, wow, that’s not very good. That’s mindless. That’s not urgent. So we’ve got to fix that.
So we got into the process and we looked at where the points were, the way stations, far too long for people to make decisions, and in a matter of two months we reduced that from 80 weeks down to 60 weeks. We cut 20 weeks out of it. It felt pretty good. That’s not good enough either. That’s over a year.
Our goal right now – get this – our goal is 35 weeks, and that’s what we’re moving to. That’s nine months. That’s not going to work, but that’s where we’re headed. This is the incremental bite of the elephant.
But think about that: urgent requirement on the ground. We started out at over a year, over a year and half. We got it down to somewhere now just over a year, and we’re trying to get it to nine months. We have to do better than that. Another one of those things that makes you go, hmm, this is just simply, simply untenable. We cannot do this.
Another one of those things: counter-piracy. NATO responsibility to be determined. We don’t have a long-range policy or strategy right now in NATO. It’s being mulled over, debated, and it may well be for the next 10 years. I don’t know. It’s a tough one. But I will tell you that last fall, when there was an urgent request from the World Food Organization to escort ships, NATO was able to respond in record time.
And in a matter of about three weeks, without having to build an operations plan and go through the standard process of consensus, we were told to go ahead, and I issued strategic commander guidance, and we used our standing NATO maritime group and moved out into the Gulf of Aden and around the Somalia waters, and we accomplished a mission.
That’s a pretty good thing. So the question is, how do we use that then as a precedent for future operations? How far can we take that? We got another task in here recently for counter-piracy operations, but the sheen wore off and we were back to writing the old plan. It took us a little longer, but we got to it.
How do we reinforce success? No one has looked at that. We’ve got to – we, I think, the strategic commanders, both ACT and ACO – Allied Command Operations and Transformation – have to look at these, and we’ve got to use these as events, as processes that we reinforce and then go back and convince the Military Committee, the International Military Staff, the NAC, that there are ways to do this that will be more helpful and conducive to them. But the question is why such rapid approval? I’ll come back to that later.
The secretary general recently, in another venue, talked about a phenomena that he noticed, which is that the North Atlantic Council rarely says no to an external request while rarely says yes quickly to an internal request. I wonder why. What is it? Why is it easier to approve an external request?
Example: World Food Organization, escort ships; boom, go do it, don’t need an OPLAN, get it done. We did. That was the genesis. That’s why we got that quickly. Other examples: The African Union need airlift to move forces into Somalia very quickly. Approval granted; went to do that.
On the other hand, when we needed, because of the independent declaration of – or Autonomous Declaration of Independence down in Kosovo, we needed political guidance because that changed the landscape. And we had several nations who recognized that independence, some who didn’t, and we had then an emerging coordination issue with the European Union, EULEX, Rule of Law Mission, and how would we operate?
So we asked for political guidance, and we have yet to get that. So we’re operating on commanders’ guidance. Why so hard when we need this internal guidance so that we can better operate our own forces among our own nations and also operate hand in hand with the European Union.
Another one of those things that make me go, hmm, what are we going to do – how can we analyze, how can we do the autopsy here and figure out what it is that we can use to our advantage and what it is we might want to then move some other way to avoid a disadvantage in the future?
Next thing, parallel track processes. Now, in policy-making in NATO, there are seemingly here two parallel tracks that operate, two processes. One process never meets the other, in my judgment. You get to the policy track, directed to accomplish a task, military task, and we’ll build a brilliant solution, a wonderful con plan, contingency plan, complete with all the annexes, robust force structure, everything you wanted to know on how to do this mission successfully.
That then goes into a process, gets approved. And on the other hand, there is a parallel process that goes along on a track that doesn’t meet. It’s the budgetary track. And what happens is then the initial estimate goes into a different process on a track and the two don’t ever come together at the end until the budgeters then tell the policy folks and us, your plan is wonderful but it’s not affordable, so you can’t do it. Go back and try again.
We have got to find a nexus in this planning process so that we continually keep the development of the military plan, whether it’s a con plan – contingency plan – or operations plan, closely linked in with affordability by the nations.
And even though we may judge it to be affordable, based upon the guidance given from the NAC, it may well be that the comptroller, the green eyeshade folks, have decided that there are other priorities that are going to be funded first. This is one, I think, that there’s got to be an early nexus. We cannot – cannot continue to operate in parallel.
The tyranny of the command structure. I see Harlan over here smiling. He knows. The NATO command structure is determined by a laborious, politically driven, resource constraint process. That probably sounds familiar to most military organizations.
Trying to put it in a nutshell: The Military Committee decides what the command structure will be, based upon consensus among nations. The NAC, North Atlantic Council, endorses and approves.
Now, the problem is getting consensus among nations, and the strategic commanders – Allied Command Transformation, Allied Command Operations – who have to implement the structure that is designed and agreed to and then approved by the NAC, do not carry a vote. And we don’t carry a red card like every nation if they don’t like what’s going on.
As I mentioned earlier, there was a possibility in the last PE review to reduce numbers of subordinate headquarters, but the desire by nations, rightly or wrongly – their desire, their national interest – was to retain headquarters on their soil, so we were unable to reduce the numbers of headquarters, both operational and tactical, to component headquarters in NATO. So in order to meet the manning numbers we had to take cuts then, salami slice each headquarters, and reduce the staffing size for that.
So, the challenge right now is to have a command structure that’s fit for purpose. And I would submit to you, as I did to the ministers last September in an extraordinary ministerial in London, when asked, that right now the NATO command structure is barely fit for purpose.
And I say barely because I don’t know, when it’s implemented, if it will be manned at 100 percent, and then it’s barely fit for purpose, or manned at about 80 percent, and then given the cuts from where we were to now and then manned again with a 20 percent decrement, probably won’t be fit, but that’s to be determined and that’s only conjecture.
So we’ve got to look at this closely. We’ve got to, I think, again, have a better balance of national interest and alliance interest, and we have to get this right because the command structure is where we put the day-to-day operations, planning efforts of the command, and it’s critical.
Another telling tale is during this last peacetime engagement, we have a couple of MOU, memorandum of understanding, organizations – an intel cell, a JAC Molesworth, and also a NATO soft coordination center – Special Operations coordination center. They are not in the command structure. There is a lead framework nation, the United States, that sponsors us.
The question was, during this process, should we bring them into the command structure? And, interestingly enough, the directors of both quickly charged into my office with their hair on fire and said, don’t you ever do that, at least not for the time being. Why? Because we’ll lose our flexibility and we’ll lose our decision-making authority, and we’ll lose, we’ll lose, we’ll lose.
Well, if that’s the case, then we’ve got to address the command structure and provide the wherewithal that we get now with these unique organizations. We’ve got to uplift this. We’ve got to take advantage of the opportunity here to do that.
Oh, I’ll pass on that one.
NATO-EU, another one of those things we’ve got to find opportunities to coordinate, to cooperate and not compete. And there is far too much competition. I don’t know if you could describe the NATO-EU relationship today as a frozen conflict or not. Some have.
But, look, there’s 28 NATO nations and the EU has 27, and 21 are the same. We have got to find opportunities in, in my judgment, acquisition and procurement, share the burden, if you will, counter-piracy. We could do that. We don’t both have to be out there all the time.
We could make that work either time on station or geographical territory out. It’s a huge area, a million square miles. Planning cells could be co-located, shared. We don’t need to separate. I think there is opportunity there in training exercises.
So, again, I think there is plenty of opportunity. I think the military sides of each recognize that. We have got to get political direction that will allow us to find, then, these doors that we can open and see how we can pull this together.
If we can cooperate, NATO-EU, in the counter-piracy role, I think we could establish a template that would serve us well then for potential operations in many other either functional areas or geographical regions. And I see tremendous opportunity for the future to do so.
Consensus. We’ve operated since conception under the system of consensus, and at the political level it’s proved powerful in garnering, as you know, international support and legitimacy. But the question is, do we really need consensus at every level? Every level of the NATO structure now is consensus.
The EU does not have consensus at every level. So I think that for major issues such as commitment of forces and resourcing, consensus is indeed paramount, but I would say that for administrative issues, logistics issues, routine business of the alliance, I think it’s time – it’s way past due that we look at other methods, where they be majority, super-majority or whatever is agree to. But obviously we have to have consensus to agree not to have consensus, and that’s our challenge right now.
We also need greater executive authority vested in the secretary general. The heads of state at Bucharest told the secretary general to come back. He has done that and proposed some changes to his authority. I think he needs chief executive officer authority.
I think he has to be able to move and make decisions in this time of operations that cannot be subjected to oftentimes long, sometimes endless debate. And we owe the alliance that in order to make it relevant and make it timely, the decisions timely, our ability to act timely, with a sense of urgency, which I think we’re missing.
Funding. We continue to operate under the costs lie where they fall policy, and the cost of deployments falls to individual nations committing and deploying the troops to a theater. So the fact is that those who share the burden militarily also share the burden monetarily. We have got to find other ways.
I don’t know if it’s common funding. I don’t know if it’s shared funding, distributed funding. There are many possibilities, but we have to address this because there are far too many functions held up now in a common funding situation, and with multinational solutions: C-17s, Strategic Airlift Consortium, with the AGS program moving.
We have got to find ways to ensure that when we make the decision to use them, that we don’t get hung up on common funding and then grounded; we’re unable to commit resources that we’ve acquired, trained and stand ready, that the alliance owns. We’ve got to be able to commit them to solve the problems that we face. So I think, again, one more that’s absolutely essential that the strategic concept may well want to take on also.
Okay, that’s enough of my things that make you go hmm, or my random thoughts – not intended, if you will, to be any parting shots from – I see my speechwriter put “lame duck commander,” but I don’t use that term – but maybe points that we need to address, I think that NATO collectively – and I would hope nations here, the United States government – would take into the debate, into the dialogue.
Some 50 days left in the seat. Again, I’m not ready to call this my end of tour. I’ll be back and do that later. And much remains to be done and I intend to do my part for what is yet to occur.
But I do think – look, 37-plus years ago I started in NATO as a lieutenant guarding the Fulda Gap. I didn’t know enough to be optimistic then. I do know enough to be optimistic now. I am. I’m optimistic about the strength of the transatlantic partnership.
And I told you it’s because of new leadership, new opportunities, new faces from top to bottom, but I will tell you, my optimism is predicated on a couple of things: strong leadership, both civilian and military, and I think that’s essential. I think we’ve got to have a longer-range view than we have to date.
We have to deal in decades, not in months. And I think that we have to work mightily to find this balance between the alliance interest and national interest, because absent that then I think we may well face credible difficulties and problems in the coming years.
So, with that, thank you, Fred. Thank you.
MR. KEMPE: General Craddock, thank you very much. You may call those parting shots; I would call them helpful advice. For many of us who follow NATO in a sort of micro sense, there is a richness to many of the things you’ve said.
For those who follow it less closely and for whom it may sound like inside baseball, I’m going to ask my first question, because I think what you said, provocatively, much of the political leadership of NATO is AWOL. That acronym means absent without leave.
And as you moved on from Afghanistan to the NATO strategic concept moving forward, in a way I heard that again. As you talked about NATO and the European Union, their need to work together, again, I heard that again.
And so, I’m wondering, in your tenure, whether that was what you saw, because you ended on the optimistic note of the alliance’s capabilities, but predicated on strong leadership – again, leadership AWOL.
So my question really is, what fixes this? We now have President Obama. We have a new administration in the U.S. What must the U.S. do? Or is in the U.S.’ hands to fix this? And if it isn’t fixed, what is the cost? What happens to NATO five years, 10 years down the line if this issue is not dealt with? And then I’ll turn it also to questions from the audience.
GEN. CRADDOCK: Well, you know, I think what happens is we put NATO at risk. One, it will weaken. And then ultimately I think it’s at risk to potentially a stronger regional organization, a rival – the EU, if you will.
The transatlantic link has served the alliance well. It must be reinforced. It must be strengthened. For whatever reason, right or wrong, I think over the past several years it has been a point of friction. We need to get by that, and we need to, I think now, find out where there are common opportunities and reinforce those.
We need to find out where the friction points are. And that transatlantic link then needs to decide if they want to address those friction points to either mitigate or eliminate, or decide that the friction point isn’t causing any additional wear and tear and we’ll leave it there.
But this is some, one, self-introspection, and, two, again, leadership in terms of the leader of NATO. I think historically that has bee the case. You catch a lot more flies with sugar than you do vinegar, so, you know, that’s an opportunity I think now to reengage.
And I think there is an expectation in NATO and the European nations that that’s going to happen. I heard the vice president at the security conference in Munich, and he said, look, we’re going to ask you for the same things. We’re not backing off of what we want; we’re just going to do it in a different way.
Fair enough. Understand that somebody is going to be knocking on the door here and it will be the same request and questions, but maybe it’s not what you say in life; it’s how you say it that counts sometimes more often than not.
So I think that’s the opportunity. Don’t back down. Be present for duty. Have a plan. I think it’s got to be a long-range plan. It’s got to be – we have to be more consistent with our friends and allies and we have to be persistent in our approach and continually being there every day.
So that would be my counsel and I think that absent that, then there may well be many who say, why are we doing this and what’s the future here, if there is another way to achieve the end somewhere else.
MR. KEMPE: So in a way we have to be exemplary in our own political will.
GEN. CRADDOCK: Oh, absolutely. Yeah, we have to set the example as the leader of NATO. I think that’s the case.
MR. KEMPE: One other question from me before I turn to the audience. The NATO command structure is barely fit for the purpose. Also – a very interesting statement – commanders’ urgent requirements, the fact that you have been able to reduce from more than a year to nine months for some of the things you need urgently, my guess is the insurgents don’t have quite that pipeline.
Your experience – and I realize this is not just a military equation. In your time at NATO, have we lost ground in Afghanistan? Are things worse than when you got there? Not because of you, not because of NATO, not because of the military, but just because of the things you’ve been talking about this evening. Are the insurgents learning faster than we are?
GEN. CRADDOCK: Well, I don’t think things – things are not worse now. What does that mean? What things? And what is the definition of worse? Still, I just saw facts and figures. We’ve been saying 80 percent of the incidents, the fight if you will, is in 11 percent of the districts. Today’s number I think was 13 percent. What does that mean? It got a little spread.
Is that surprising? No, not given the fact that we’ve got safe havens and a lot of money. So I’m not surprised there. Quite frankly, I’m surprised it’s not spread more, but it hasn’t. So, no, but if you look at 2002 and you look at today, it’s enormous progress.
Unfortunately, we’re focused on measures of performance, not measures of effectiveness. We have to be focused on what does it mean? If we build a thousand more kilometers of road in Helmand Province, that’s a big measure of performance, big kudos, but what does it mean if the Taliban have checkpoints every five kilometers and there’s no freedom of movement? Then there’s no effectiveness.
Six-point-one more million children going to school today than five years ago. How many more are going to madrassas in the Pakistan border region where they teach hatred and they train suicide bombers? Those are the things we need to know, and the question is, what effect does it have? And if it’s the right effect, reinforce it.
But we’re going after performance. We’re measuring things without measuring trend analysis. And right now it’s all episodic and anecdotal, and we’ve got far too much of that. It’s a hard thing to do. There is an enormous amount of data in all these databases all over the place.
So we have to do better now in bringing those databases together, analyzing them, pull some trend analysis out, and decide what’s working, keep doing it, reinforce it; what’s not, based upon our yardstick here, our metrics, and then find something that will. But we can’t continue to reinforce failure.
Turn cycle, insurgents; are they learning faster than we are? It’s hard to say? You know, I don’t know what their cycle is. I know their strategic coms appears to be more functional than ours. But, you know, when you know you’re going to do something and you know it’s dastardly, and you get film crews out there to do it, that’s not the way we operate, and we can’t do that and we won’t do that.
So I don’t know that you could compare the two on even terms, but we do know they are a cunning, learning organization. They watch what we do. And this is the classic better bullet, better armor. You know, we come up – well, civilian casualties last year. They started using civilians as shields. We didn’t get it for a while and then we figured it out.
We then put in procedures to obviate that and the civilian casualty numbers went way down. They did some things to counter it. They came back up. Now we’ve got to counter again. So this is classic and, you know, it’s irregular warfare.
MR. KEMPE: Their strategic coms appears to be more functional than ours. That’s troubling.
I see already a bunch of questions. Ambassador Hunter, I see you with a – yes, and then Harlan Ullman, and let’s go around here. We have three questions already.
Q: Thank you very much.
MR. KEMPE: Please also –
Q: Robert Hunter, RAND Corporation.
MR. KEMPE: Thank you.
Q: Thank you very much, General. You talked about, in Afghanistan, but it probably applies elsewhere, the problems of governance, reconstruction, development. How much do you think NATO has evolved, either, one, to try to take this on, or should it leave it to the European Union and others?
And if so, how does one make that work effectively, particularly when you mentioned the governments that aren’t willing to do certain kinds of things militarily. Do you give them credit for the non-military? Do you give them credit for the non-military? How do you see this, as somebody who has had to wrestle with this moving forward?
GEN. CRADDOCK: Well, you’ve got a bunch of questions there, one dependent on the next. Let me go back.
You know, one of the first things, two-and-a-half years ago or a little over that, that was brought home to me very quickly was we’re not doing nation-building in NATO. Well, who is? So I think part of the reason we are where we are today is because nobody was doing nation-building, whatever that is. And you can define it, and we’ll all define it a little differently.
The fact is we were doing some nation-building, and they were called Afghan Development Zones. And it was working with the development and reconstruction community to say, where do you guys want to go in and do some work here to create some jobs and put some infrastructure in? And then ISAF would go in and put a security bubble around it so they could go do that. And then we kind of got away from that and now I think we’re starting to get back into that.
I don’t know that the NATO political mechanism will ever accept lead organization for reconstruction development and governance. One the other hand, I think they now realize that we cannot prevail in the security line of operation without participating in those.
And we need to be a good partner with – I’m hoping it’s UNAMA leading in reconstruction and development, and I think there’s more coherency there, but we’re still working it and there’s opportunities. We have to do more.
In governance we have to, I think – our forces are out there every day working with local leaders. We have to push them to do the right thing, we have to stop them when they’re not doing the right thing, and we have to know the difference.
And I think that our young soldiers, leaders will know the difference. But we then need to accept and help civilian mentors when they come in through the PRTs, the Provincial Reconstruction Teams.
So, will we accept it? I doubt it. Can we participate in it? Absolutely.
MR. KEMPE: Please.
Q: Harlan Ullman. John, thanks for your comments. And obviously you’re not going to be going skiing in the Hindu Kush with me in the near future.
My question really pertains to Pakistan. We all understand that for NATO and Afghanistan to succeed in Afghanistan there’s got to be success in Pakistan. What do you think NATO could be doing that it’s not to encourage, urge, support Pakistan to take on the really tough issues, both in its security crisis, which is not getting better, and its economic crisis, which continues?
GEN. CRADDOCK: I think – we’ve said for some time, I’ve said, that as much as we have a Tripartite Commission for the military, between the Afghans, the Pakistani military and NATO ISAF, you need to have a political Tripartite Commission that’s got to address, then, political issues. It may well generate support and non-military means that Pakistan could use, economic and other.
From a military perspective, I think we have to offer our schools, make them available. We have to push our member nations and partner nations to bilaterally offer, if we can’t get political consensus to do so under a NATO banner, their training opportunities. Key here: training and education – essential. So I think those would be very helpful.
We’re doing some good work along the border, setting up these border coordination centers, turning them into operational coordination centers; exchange of information, both intelligence information, radio frequency.
So there’s a lot of good work there, but right now there is very little political outreach, and I think that’s the next step that must occur, and I think that the North Atlantic Council has to decide to do that and reach out.
MR. KEMPE: Thank you. Please.
Q: Jeff Steinberg, EIR. General, I’d like to ask you about the narcotics issue. You emphasized the critical role of the narcotics trafficking in financing and arming the insurgency. Has that issue been resolved as consensus at NATO?
Obviously I followed the Der Speigel story back a few months ago and it seemed as if there was some kind of serious, as yet unresolved, dispute over whether or not the drug traffickers should be considered in the lethal target sets. And if this is indispensable to the strategy, is this a game breaker if we can’t resolve this?
GEN. CRADDOCK: Well, I think it’s been resolved. And what we had was direction from the defense ministers that said that when the traffickers are abetting and providing materiel support to the insurgents, then they, under the rules of engagement, can be engaged. That’s what we’ve pushed down.
Now, there was differences in terms of what does that mean in terms of how much proof do you need? But I think in January I approved a proposed annex that came out of ISAF and JFC Brunssum, and let’s try this for 90 days.
We have not yet made the impact that I think we need to, but I think we are making progress. We have taken out of the hands opium, heroin, hashish even, of traffickers that will feed the insurgency tens of millions of euros worth of that.
We have indications that it is causing the traffickers to come out of their game plan. They’re doing things they didn’t do before. They’re vulnerable. So we’re seeing good trends here that we wanted to continue to push on.
So all the reports I have, the analysis made by our analysts in assessment and commanders says this is on track. COMISAF has told me I have all the authority I need to do what you want me to do with regards to these traffickers.
MR. KEMPE: Thank you, General.
Q: Al Milliken [phonetic], AM Media. How much of a difference do the newest members of NATO make for operations? Has there been any setbacks in integrating what some have labeled new and old Europe?
GEN. CRADDOCK: With regard to your second question first, no. I’m not sure I want to define new and old, but the integration is on track and works well.
Impacts, well, I think one of the tenets that we have used is that to be a NATO member you must be a security provider, not a security consumer. And by and large, that’s what’s happening.
And if you look at the newest members, Croatia and Albania, and you look at their support to operations, Afghanistan and others, they are providing credible support based on their size. So we’re appreciative for that. We think that’s a good thing.
There are certain functional aspects that will have to get better. The ability to police their airspace is not always consistent with NATO requirements, to NATO then has to offset that. We do that in a variety of ways.
So I think that we have a standard, we have a very rigorous enforcement of the standard, and I think that what we’ve seen here for the past seven and now two more has been very positive in terms of new members.
MR. KEMPE: Please.
Q: James Kitfield from National Journal. Good to see you again, General. Could you make sense of the reports that there is going to be a new three-star general, American general, sent to Afghanistan? There has been talk, I think, that he may command a headquarters. Whether it’s at a corps level I’m not sure.
I wanted to find out what you think that means for this command structure in Afghanistan and did it have anything to do with General McKiernan leaving?
GEN. CRADDOCK: Well, that’s a U.S. – I’m a NATO officer. Obviously I wear a U.S. uniform but I am not privy to all those deliberations. I kind of know what we’ve read here.
As I understand it, the three-star is going to be a deputy U.S. Forces Afghanistan officer initially. There may well be a three-star headquarters develop out of that. I don’t know if that will be U.S. only or it will be multinational or NATO. That’s to be determined. And beyond that, in terms of did this lead to the announcement today with regard to General McKiernan, I can’t say.
Q: Can you speak to the McKiernan – can you speak to the McKiernan departure?
GEN. CRADDOCK: In terms of –
Q: Reasons for it. What it achieves.
GEN. CRADDOCK: No, that was a U.S. decision. I was informed but not consulted.
Q: (Off mic.)
GEN. CRADDOCK: I’d have to see the construct and the concept. You know, we don’t want multiple layers where not needed. On the other hand, if this provides value added in terms of focus down on the fight and frees up COMISAF to do other functions that need to be done in terms of the coordination writ large – governance, reconstruction, development and security – then it could be a positive factor.
MR. KEMPE: Thank you. Question?
Q: General, Viola Gienger from Bloomberg News. You mentioned the danger of accommodating the countries who don’t feel they can step up to the plate. Do you feel like the Obama administration has exerted sufficient pressure on the allies to pony up in this war in Afghanistan with the resources that you need?
They’ve talked a lot about – the Obama administration seems to be saying that if they can’t provide troops to actually fight, then maybe they can provide trainers or something like that. Do you believe that the pressure has been sufficient, or at least if not sufficient, appropriate?
GEN. CRADDOCK: Yeah, I can’t speak to the amount of pressure because I’m not privy to that. What I can say is that I don’t think I ever expected big contributions. What I expected were incremental contributions, and I think that’s what we are seeing, not only in the military lane but also in the civil lane with regards to PRTs and additional civilian mentors and civilian experts moving in for the non-military functions. So I think that’s a positive step.
Would that have occurred absent any pressure? I don’t know, but it’s occurring and I know that – well, I know – I’m pretty sure that the 60th summit, Strasbourg and Kehl was helpful to that end because the vice president in Munich talked about that it would be engaging.
So we have seen additional training team contributions, talk about more trainers for police. That’s a good thing. And then this greater focus on the civilian side, the soft, S-O-F-T, power, and I think that also now we’re seeing some increases there. So, no, I’m encouraged.
MR. KEMPE: Let me close with a double question here. First of all, we all agree that NATO is the most successful and important military and security alliance in the world, and so what we’re talking about tonight is really a situation where we really have to take care of something that needs some taking care of because it is of such crucial importance, and certainly it’s what the Atlantic Council devotes a lot of its work to. Two questions that come out of that.
First of all, you made a great deal of the national versus NATO priorities, and I wonder if you could flesh that out a little bit. What do you mean by that? Are we talking about a concern that this national surge, if you will, that there will be an Americanization of Afghanistan and perhaps NATO will play a lesser role in some sort of cross-alliance, or is there something else going on there? If you could translate that for me.
The other thing that I think is quite interesting that we haven’t brought up is in this EU-NATO issue, and of course in the United States there has been a lot of attention to the Somali pirate situation and the heroism that was experienced and seen here. NATO cannot board vessels. NATO cannot take detainees. The European Union apparently can. Last I looked there were 21 common members in the two organizations. What gives?
GEN. CRADDOCK: Well, my sentiments exactly, and when I found out what the EU-ROE was and what we had –
MR. KEMPE: ROE?
GEN. CRADDOCK: Rules of engagement.
MR. KEMPE: Right.
GEN. CRADDOCK: And it was interesting that theirs was more robust. So the question immediately was, what’s the difference in detail and why, and let’s go after the same.
We recently, two days ago, got approved by the council the same ROE. However, I’m still yet to implement because we have to have NATO do some bilateral agreements with nations before we can implement, for example, the detainee operations. The EU has some arrangements in place that they arranged. We have to do the same. Yet to be done.
So I’ve withheld some of the ROE pending that and then we’ll issue it out. But we now have the same authority; we just have to get the legal aspects in place. Before then, I can issue it down to commanders. That’s a good thing.
MR. KEMPE: The European Union, on this issue, moved faster than NATO did.
GEN. CRADDOCK: Yeah, exactly, and we’ve got to find out why. You know, again, are we arranged for the 21st century urgency that’s required? In this case we weren’t, but in follow up, recognizing the error of our ways, it was quickly reconciled. But we can’t do that in the future; we have to be right the first time out.
National versus NATO priorities, I’m talking about across the spectrum. Example: Oftentimes our request – in other words, we know what nations have pledged what they made available to NATO. We know what they’ve committed to NATO ops and we know what’s left. And if we need capability X, Y and Z and a nation has it, we’ll ask that nation for X and we’ll ask another one for Y and Z.
But too often the asking process gets hung up because of political implications: not the right time, a mandate’s coming up; don’t ask us now, we can’t anything until the mandate is resolved or the election is over, or whatever.
NATO headquarters, they are status symbols to NATO nations. Fair enough, and they ought to be. But on the other hand, when the best command structure alignment would reduce those and some nations may lose a headquarters, then what is the value of national interest? Keep that because of, again, the parochial perspective.
And it’s a status symbol, to a certain extent, but it’s also functional to another extent. But for the best interest, the best arrangement, for the most efficient operation and effective operation for the command structure, we need to eliminate it. If you hold a no vote in a consensus organization, then you can hang up the process.
So there’s a couple of examples. And because we are consensus, oftentimes the red card, the no vote is thrown, for a variety of reasons. It could be monetarily, don’t want to have to commit to that. It could be for a legal issue that a nation’s laws won’t commit to it, when in fact you don’t always have to participate.
You can withhold participation and you don’t have to say no when it comes time to vote. But when you do say not and hold up the alliance and there’s a national interest at play there, and one has to, again, balance against what is the alliance trying to achieve?
MR. KEMPE: General Craddock, thank you very much. You have 50 days left, and so part of what I’m going to say will sound premature, but we probably won’t have you on this public stage again, although we’ll see you again in the summer on the various issues we’ve talked about tonight.
It’s an honor for us to have hosted you here tonight. I want to thank you publicly and on behalf of this audience for your service to the country over more than the last three decades in so many important positions. I want to thank you particularly for your service as the European commander, supreme allied commander Europe, and also for this important statement tonight.
We certainly believe that the way that you improve and strengthen the alliance is looking at it for all its strengths and all its flaws and then making it stronger, and I think you’re helping us to do that through your statement tonight. Thank you so much, on behalf of myself, the Atlantic Council and the audience.
GEN. CRADDOCK: Thank you very much. Thank you. I enjoyed it. Thank you.
Transcript by Federal News Service, Washington, D.C.