War on Terrorism

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Stavridis Praises Allies’ Afghanistan Efforts

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 30, 2011 – The fight in Afghanistan has become a global effort, with committed partners from nations that include Mongolia, Bulgaria, Tonga and El Salvador, NATO’s supreme allied commander for Europe said here today.

“In addition to the 49 countries with troops there, well over 80 countries are contributing financially to develop Afghanistan,” Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis told the House Armed Services Committee.

In addition to contributing resources and capabilities, Stavridis said, allied nations “are in the fight.”

Although U.S. forces in Afghanistan outnumber those of other nations by a 2-to-1 margin, the admiral said, allied nations have had 900 service members killed in action, compared to the U.S. total of about 1,400.

“So they are suffering casualties at a higher rate per capita than we are here in the United States in many instances,” he said.

One of the allies’ specific skills is training.

“If you think about how we're going to succeed in Afghanistan, I believe we will train our way to success,” Stavridis said. “We're beginning a transition this summer that will run through 2014, and I believe the ability to make that transition is dependent on effective Afghan security forces.”

Some 275,000 Afghan security forces are being trained by U.S. forces and by coalition partners who bring discrete skill sets at everything from orienteering to aircraft maintenance, Stavridis said. The training effort, he added, “is an area in which we are encouraging our allies to bring additional forces.” Canada and the Netherlands recently increased the numbers of troops they are committing to the training mission, he said.

Coalition partners also are at work in a command-and-control sense, Stavridis said, noting that Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, has a British deputy commander and a French chief of staff.

“As you look around Afghanistan to the leaders in each regional command area, Kabul is commanded by a Turk,” Stavridis said. “In the far west, we see an Italian in command. In the north we see a German in command, in addition to U.S. commanders in the south and the east.

“The contributions of the allies are noteworthy and part of my cautious optimism for success in Afghanistan,” he added.

Despite economic challenges, European allies have great resources, Stavridis said.

“The [gross domestic product] of Europe is about $14 trillion, very similar to that of the United States, so if you put the United States' GDP and Europe's GDP together, about $28 [trillion] to $30 trillion, which is roughly half of the global GDP.

“We're lucky that our close allies in Europe live in prosperous societies that can contribute to defense,” he added. However, he acknowledged, many allies are not meeting the NATO standard of spending of at least 2 percent of their GDP on defense.

A handful, including the United Kingdom, France, Turkey and Greece and others, are meeting the standard, he said.

But the majority of NATO partners are not meeting the GDP defense-spending standard,” the admiral added.

“So I am worried,” he said.

Because the United States pays a much-higher percentage of GDP for its defense, Stavridis said.

“We need to be emphatic with our European allies that they should spend at least the minimum NATO 2 percent,” he said.

The admiral said he stresses that point with NATO allies.

“I carry that message often, emphatically and very directly, frankly, not only to military counterparts but also to political actors in each of the nations in the alliance,” he said.

A minimum defense spending goal of 2 percent of gross domestic product is very reasonable, Stavridis said, and one that the alliance should be able to support, noting that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates also raise the issue with NATO members.

“We are all leaning forward to make sure our allies do the right thing in this regard,” the admiral said.

The coalition also is dealing with other problems in Afghanistan, which produces 80 to 90 percent of the world's poppy. This is turned into opium, and ultimately into heroin, Stavridis said.

Taliban financing comes from the poppy trade, he added, which provides a funding stream of $100 million to $200 million annually for enemy activity.

The route is marked by corruption and crime as the drugs move from Afghanistan through central Asia, through the the Balkans, and to users in Russia, Europe and, ultimately, the United States, Stavridis said.

A multiagency countertrafficking effort is being established to support the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency as it takes the lead, he said, and the military command contributes surveillance, connectivity and an analytic capability.

“It's a significant challenge, but we're starting to see some impact,” Stavridis said. “In Afghanistan, where we start this supply chain and we see Afghans in the lead but NATO supporting, we have seen a reduction in the production of poppy and, therefore, of opium and heroin, by about 20 percent over the last two years. We're starting down the path.”

In the end, however, gains are necessary on the demand side as well as the supply side and the transit zone.

“There's no silver bullet,” the admiral said. “You kind of have to go at all three of those. We're attacking all three in an interagency way.”

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