War on Terrorism

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Stavridis Cites Value of Partnerships

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 29, 2011 – Partnership building is an important aspect of operations and training at the U.S. European Command, including operations in Afghanistan and Libya, the command’s top officer said here today.

Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis, commander of Eucom and NATO’s supreme allied commander for Europe, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee, taking questions about Afghanistan, Libya and other topics.

“Any time the United States can operate in a coalition environment, it’s in our advantage,” Stavridis told the senators. “Afghanistan is a good example, with 49 partner nations.” At Eucom, he added, 51 nations participate in military-to-military relationships.

“Last year, for example, we did 33 major exercises engaging about 50,000 folks. We do a significant amount of training across the spectrum,” the admiral said.

Such partnerships, he said, make a significant difference in available resources, exchange of ideas and geographic access.

“I think partnership building is why there are 45,000 non-U.S. troops today with us in Afghanistan,” fighting alongside 98,000 U.S. troops, Stavridis added. “That’s a significant resource contribution.” Roughly 40 ships are operating in general support of the operation in Libya, he added, and only about 12 are U.S. ships.

Partnerships also promote an exchange of ideas, the admiral said.

“In Libya today, where we have 28 NATO and Arab nations coming together, you have different ways of looking at things,” Stavridis said. “That can, at times, create friction, but I would argue over time it creates better ideas, because no one of us is as smart as all of us thinking and working together.”

Access, the admiral said, is another advantage of partnerships.

“To do an operation like Libya or Afghanistan requires overcoming the tyranny of distance and geography,” he said. “We do that best with allies, because not everywhere is international airspace. Not everywhere are the high seas.”

Echoing the sentiments of Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force and U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Stavridis said he’s “cautiously optimistic” about military operations in Afghanistan.

“At any given time, about 80 percent of the 45,000 non-U.S. troops who are in Afghanistan come from Europe,” he said. “At this moment, we have 12,000 U.S. European Command soldiers who are forward deployed, so we very much focus on Afghanistan and try our best to support [Marine Corps] Gen. Jim Mattis and Gen. Dave Petraeus.” Mattis commands U.S. Central Command.

“We have a coalition of 49 troop-contributing nations, the largest coalition in history,” Stavridis said of the effort in Afghanistan. “And it is making measurable progress in the transition to Afghan-led security operations.”

In operations against Libya, Stavridis said, he wears two hats. As Eucom commander, he explained, he supports lead combatant commander Army Gen. Carter F. Ham of U.S. Africa Command.

Ham, Stavridis said, “is the principal U.S. operator and has been largely responsible for leading the coalition that has been in operation for several weeks. My role there is support and logistics and moving troops forward for him.”

As NATO’s supreme allied commander for Europe, the admiral said he effectively is the alliance’s operations officer.

“In that regard, we are, in fact, taking this mission,” Stavridis said. “We have already taken the arms embargo mission as of several days ago, we’ve taken the no-fly zone, and now we are prepared over the next 24 to 48 hours to take over protecting the population.”

All those tasks, he said, stem directly from U.N Security Council resolutions.

“We are in the process of transitioning to a NATO-led operation from this coalition,” he added.

In response to a question about how coalition forces would react if Moammar Gadhafi’s forces laid down their arms, the admiral said the process would begin in the field.

“In the last five weeks of this operation,” Stavridis said, “I’ve heard personally at least five different cease-fires announced by Gadhafi’s forces, none of which have been true. So it would have to begin with an on-the-ground assessment.”

This would be backed up by higher-level intelligence assessments, and that data would flow into the Joint Task Force commander for NATO, Lt. Gen. Charles Bouchard of the Canadian air force, whose headquarters is in Naples, Italy, Stavridis said.

“It would be assessed there in an operational context, moved up to my headquarters in Mons, Belgium, where SHAPE -- the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe -- would put a strategic view on it,” he added.

The information would then go to the North Atlantic Council -- NATO’s political arm -- which would decide whether a shift in direction would take place, he said.

If the cease-fire were genuine, Stavridis added, the discussion would have to go to another level.

“It would be the United Nations,” he said, “since the authority for NATO to participate in this operation is under United Nations Security Council resolutions 1970 and 1973.”

If NATO assessed that conditions on the ground were changing, he said, “I think there would be, depending on the situation, a probable pause in activity while it was evaluated at a political level as to further steps.”

In considering the future of Libya, the admiral said he could see a “wide range of possibilities out ahead of us that run from a static stalemate” to a cracking of the Gadhafi regime.

“If we work all the elements of power, I think we have a more than reasonable chance of Gadhafi leaving, because the entire international community is arrayed against him," Stavridis told the senators.

Noting that representatives of 40 nations are gathered in London today to discuss Libya, Stavridis evoked the words of Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in a weekend television interview.

“[Gadhafi] probably doesn’t need to be hanging any new pictures,” the admiral said.

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