Priorities Chart Way Forward for Eucom
By Donna Miles
STUTTGART, Germany, May 4, 2012 - Using the new defense strategic guidance as its roadmap, officials at U.S. European Command say they've fixed their compasses on four basic priorities: maintaining ready forces, completing a successful transition in Afghanistan, sustaining strategic partnerships and countering transnational threats.
"Our highest priority is readiness to execute the contingency plans that we are responsible for," he said. "That goes directly back to the Constitution that says the military's mission is to fight and win the nation's wars."
That, explained Navy Rear Adm. Mark Montgomery, the command's deputy commander for plans, policy and strategy, means being ready to act if called upon to deal with issues in a 51-country area of responsibility that stretches across the Baltics, the Balkans, the Caucasuses and the Levant.
Eucom's next priority is to complete a successful security transition in Afghanistan from the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force to Afghan national security forces, the admirals said. This, Montgomery explained, requires evolving from an operational role to a training role to ensure Afghan forces are prepared to accept increasing security responsibility.
"Many people don't realize that most of the non-U.S. forces in ISAF are from Europe," Martoglio said, noting that about 32,000 of the 35,000 partner forces in the coalition deploy from European soil. Eucom has been active over the past decade helping to organize, train and equip forces from countries not financially or logistically capable of doing so themselves.
"Some would say we should expect more from our European partners," Martoglio acknowledged, noting the 90,000 U.S. troop contribution to ISAF. "But I would say that if it weren't for those 32,000 European partners there, we would require 32,000 more Americans."
As the coalition draws down forces in Afghanistan, Eucom's next priority, he said, will be to preserve the strategic partnerships solidified there.
"We have been alongside NATO, or NATO has been alongside us, for 10 years in Afghanistan and Iraq," Martoglio said. "We have a combat edge that has been honed by 10 years of working together in very challenging circumstances.
"So as we come out of Iraq and Afghanistan, how do we sustain that combat edge over time, particularly when everybody's budgets are being significantly constrained?" he asked. "Our job here is to sustain the strategic partnership, the NATO alliance that most successful coalition in history across these difficult financial times."
NATO never has been at a higher level of readiness to conduct contingency operations, Montgomery said. He cited the immediacy of a mission that's brought interoperability within ISAF to its highest level ever, but could begin deteriorating over time without a concerted effort to preserve it.
"The question," he said, echoing Martolgio, "is how do we preserve all the investment that's been made over the last eight to 10 years an investment of not just money, but blood and sweat, working together in both Iraq and Afghanistan?"
Martoglio emphasized the importance of continued engagement and training, both to take new strategic partnerships forged with Eastern European nations to the next level, and to maintain other ISAF contributors' high-end capabilities.
"We have to look toward ensuring interoperability of those forces and routinely training together so that if we have to conduct high-end operations, we have the ability to work together from a technical perspective, and the skills to work together from a training perspective," he said.
Looking forward, Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis, the Eucom commander, identified four specific countries for increased engagement: Israel, Russia, Turkey and Poland.
Israel is one of the United States' closest allies, Martoglio said, noting the U.S. commitment to help in deterring its adversaries. Russia has a major impact on security in Europe and the world, and forging a more positive bilateral relationship is essential, he said.
Turkey, a rising regional power and NATO partner, is able to influence events in parts of the world the United States simply can't. And Poland, an increasingly influential leader in Northeastern Europe, is on a trajectory toward extending its economic and democratic impact beyond the immediate region.
These partnerships will be vital in confronting new and emerging threats in a rapidly-changing security environment, Martoglio said, particularly transnational threats that no one country can tackle alone. These include violent extremist organizations, cyber attacks, ballistic missiles and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
NATO addressed these concerns at its 2010 summit in Lisbon, Portugal, tasking member countries to contribute to various capabilities as part of its new 10-year strategic concept. The United States took on a significant ballistic missile defense tasking, Montgomery noted, and is working within NATO and U.S. structures to address other challenges.
Stavridis, testifying before Congress in March, said these evolving threats demand the steady commitment that the trans-Atlantic alliance has demonstrated since its inception more than six decades ago.
"Working together with our historic partners on these critical security challenges of the 21st century to wisely leverage the significant investments that America has made for over half a century will be more important than ever in light of the fiscal constraints that we all face," he told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Stavridis credited the men and women of Eucom who work alongside allies and partners across the dynamic European theater every day pursuing common security interests and as a result, forward defense of the United States.
"With every action, they are shaping the rapidly changing world we live in today, in order to provide the ensuring capabilities, security structures and trust we need for a stronger world tomorrow," he said.
Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis
Navy Vice Adm. Charles W. Martoglio
Navy Rear Adm. Mark C. Montgomery
Army 1st Lt. Alan Vaughn, left, a first-time participant in the Expert Field Medical Badge competition, straps a simulated casualty to a skid during training at Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, Aug. 13, 2011. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Thomas Wheeler