by Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service
6/10/2013 - BRUSSELS -- The
United States will be the largest single contributor to the follow-on
NATO operation that will replace the International Security Assistance
Force mission in Afghanistan in 2015 and beyond, Defense Secretary Chuck
Hagel said at NATO headquarters June 5.
Hagel told reporters during a news conference that defense minister
meetings brought some clarity to the "Resolute Support" operation NATO
will launch to train, advise and assist Afghan forces after those forces
have assumed full security responsibility by the end of 2014.
The secretary spent two days in meetings with his fellow NATO defense
ministers, with sessions on June 5 centered on planning alliance
support for post-2014 Afghanistan.
Hagel's news conference followed NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh
Rasmussen's. Rasmussen told reporters Resolute Support will be a much
smaller mission with five regional components: one each in Afghanistan's
east, west, north and south, and the fifth in the Afghan capital of
Kabul. Rasmussen explained the train, advise and assist mission will put
trainers at the national level, such as the ministries of defense and
interior, and at the corps level of Afghan army and police forces.
Hagel said the U.S. role will be as the overall framework nation, with
geographic responsibility in the east and south, the areas of strongest
insurgent resistance to the Afghan government.
"We appreciate the commitments other nations are making, including the
announcements by Germany and Italy that they will serve as lead nations
for the west and the north," the secretary said. "Turkey has also
indicated they are favorably considering serving as the framework nation
Hagel said U.S. support will include "new, expert, professional
assistance to the [Afghan] army in the area of contracting and fuel
support, not just soldiers." He added, "We intend to be there for the
long haul, and I made that commitment very clear today."
The secretary also discussed NATO nations' defense spending in an era
when growing security challenges strongly signal the need to invest in
new capabilities. Hagel said ministers discussed how to plan such
investment in the face of widespread budget constraints among alliance
Hagel noted his own department is studying ways to cut spending, but
added that he assured his counterparts that the United States is "not
considering any reductions that will affect NATO's ability to fulfill
its core tasks of collective defense, crisis management and cooperative
The U.S. commitment to NATO remains ironclad, the secretary said.
"Still, overdependence on any one country for critical capabilities
brings with it risks," he said. "And as European defense investment
continues to decline, the alliance's dependence on the United States is
Hagel said he told his fellow ministers that to justify U.S. investment
in the alliance to the American people, "we must be able to demonstrate
that our NATO partners are willing to ... share in this burden."
Turning to cyber, the secretary said the NATO defense ministerial
session devoted exclusively to cybersecurity that occurred June
4 sharpened ministers' awareness that failure to get ahead of the threat
could lead to "loss of life or serious economic consequences."
Rasmussen noted June 4 that NATO will form rapid-response teams to
counter cyberattacks on its own networks and, eventually, to aid allies
who request assistance in the face of attacks on their systems.
Libya also was an agenda item this week, Hagel noted. Defense ministers
agreed to respond to the Libyan government's request for training
assistance, he added.
"We will develop a plan for how NATO can play a role in boosting the
capacity of the Libyan government to secure its borders and counter
terrorism," he said. "This effort will enhance security for the Libyan
people, and it will help address a security challenge on Europe's
Hagel said now is a defining time for the transatlantic alliance, noting
that President Barack Obama and Rasmussen agreed during their meeting
last week to hold a NATO summit in 2014.
"This summit will help keep the alliance on a path for the future,
following the end of the combat mission in Afghanistan," he said. "I
look forward to working to help defend our common interests