The chairman of the NATO Military Committee opened the group’s conference in Ljubljana, Slovenia, by urging NATO’s chiefs of defense to build on the alliance’s 70 years of success to develop the capabilities needed to deter and defend the Euro-Atlantic theater.

Chiefs of defense representing the 29 nations of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization arrive for the NATO Military Committee Conference in Ljubljana, Slovenia, Sept. 13, 2019. (DOD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)

British Royal Air Force Air Chief Marshal Stuart Peach said the alliance is changing to meet the challenges posed by new threats, just as it has changed in the past.

“Today’s security situation is the most unpredictable it has been for many years,” he said. “However, the alliance’s commitment to preventing conflict, to preserving peace [and] to succeeding in deterrence for nearly 1 billion people on both sides of the Atlantic remains constant.”

Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, arrives at the opening ceremony of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Military Committee Conference at the National Gallery in Ljubljana, Slovenia, Sept. 13, 2019. (DOD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)

The Military Committee provides strategic military advice to the North Atlantic Council, and the chiefs of defense will translate the political will and guidance from the council into strategy and capabilities. The U.S. is represented by Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“NATO is a political-military defensive organization combining both soft and hard power,” Peach said. “We promote democratic values and are committed to the peaceful resolution of disputes.”

Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, meets the President of the Republic of Slovenia Borut Pahor during the opening ceremony of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Military Committee Conference at the National Gallery in Ljubljana, Slovenia, Sept. 13, 2019. (DOD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)

Still, if diplomacy fails, the alliance must have the ability to defend the member states.

On the agenda for the conference are operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and in neighboring Kosovo. The alliance is committed to operations in Afghanistan and agrees “that it is clear that a sustainable solution in Afghanistan cannot be reached by military means alone,” Peach said.

“NATO allies and partners will continue to train and advise Afghan security forces,” he said. ““We make them stronger so they can fight international terrorism and create and sustain security in their own country. Our military presence is there to create the conditions for peace.”

The alliance mission in Iraq continues, with NATO personnel strengthening Iraqi security forces to ensure the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria does not return, he said. NATO service members are training Iraqi soldiers in military medicine, logistics and countering improvised explosive devices. “Our mission in Iraq contributes to the wider fight against terrorism,” Peach said. “Training local forces is one of the best weapons we have in this mission.”

NATO is a far-reaching organization conducting air policing missions in the Baltics, patrolling the Black Sea and assisting the European Union in the refugee and migrant crisis.

“All these commitments come against the backdrop of adapting our alliance in a complex and challenging security environment,” he said. “As we develop our deterrence and defense, we need to ensure that our strategic communications support our operations and missions. In the world that we are in, misinformation and propaganda are tools that are used by both state and nonstate actors against the alliance. Therefore, NATO’s civilian and military communications must be supported to communicate transparency on our deployments, on operations … and on our exercises.”

NATO is a defensive alliance and does not seek confrontation. “NATO’s aim is to preserve peace,” the air chief marshal said. “We will not compromise on the principles on which the alliance and security in Europe and North America rest. Maintaining current operations and missions whilst looking to the future means we need to be ready to respond to any challenge or threat.”

The chiefs of defense will take a hard look at the alliance’s strategy for deterrence and defense of the Euro-Atlantic area and warfighting concepts. All these are aimed at countering multinational and multidomain challenges.  

NATO’s military chiefs of defense worked diligently to ensure the alliance is served in deterrence and defense both today and tomorrow.

Speaking with reporters traveling with him, Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford provided his insights on the deliberations of the NATO Military Committee’s meeting in Ljubljana, Slovenia, which ended recently.

The NATO chiefs of defense discussed the alliance’s strategy and how it can shape the future of the alliance. In the United States, officials use the National Defense Strategy and National Military Strategy to ensure all decisions affecting the military today and in the future are strategy-driven. This runs the gamut from how the United States postures its forces to how the Defense Department plans and how the department determines what future capabilities it needs.

NATO chiefs are making sure the alliance can do the same. “[The chiefs] did that because of the competitive environment we find ourselves in today,” Dunford said. 

Russia is a competitor, and the NATO advantage over a resurgent Russia has eroded, the general noted. The chiefs of defense recognize this and approved the new NATO strategy in May. This meeting looked at two documents: a broad concept for NATO defense and deterrence, and a capstone concept for NATO operations.

“We are bringing a coherence to the planning that is going on inside NATO, and the collective efforts to develop capability,” the chairman said.

There is a big difference between what the chiefs of defense do as members of the Military Committee and the way they operate in their home countries. In the United States, Dunford works alongside the defense secretary, “actually driving the decisions and the programs,” he explained. “The program reflects all the work that we do. We use the National Defense Strategy and the National Military Strategy. [We] do experimentation, war games, and that drives the investments that we make.” 

NATO’s new strategy drives the alliance’s plans, and it also drives the posture of the forces that have been given to NATO by the various countries. It informs, rather than drives, the path of capability development of individual nations, the chairman said. 

The document gives the chiefs a collective understanding of the challenges NATO faces. They can then go back to their countries and work with political leaders to make specific defense investments that serve their nation and are complementary to NATO’s needsThe chiefs also discussed upcoming operations in Afghanistan and the ongoing preparations for the Sept. 28 Afghan elections. Dunford said the commander in Afghanistan, Army Gen. Austin S. Miller, spoke about the support NATO and partner nations are providing for the Afghan government as the election approaches. There is an uptick in operations, as there always is before an election, the chairman said. 

The Afghan government wants to give the maximum number of people the opportunity to go to the polls, he pointed out. “The Afghans are running the election, and that drives General Miller’s plan,” Dunford said. 

Dunford also shared with his fellow chiefs the thinking on troop adjustments in Afghanistan. He told them that President Donald J. Trump has not made any decisions right now on future posture adjustments. 

He further said that Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo and Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper committed to transparency with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and their NATO counterparts as the United States considers adjustments to posture. “We would make sure they were informed so we can make these adjustments together,” Dunford said. (Ramona E).

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