NATO flag with US Army M2A3 Bradley crossing River Elbe with German M3s, 2015

Move Towards a Permanent NATO Army?

178th Military Committee Discusses NATO Challenges

NATO chiefs of defence met in Brussels Jan. 16 to examine the situations in Afghanistan, Iraq and on the alliance border with Russia, and to look at how NATO can better function to meet these and other challenges. At least part of that development may see a permanent NATO force.

NATO is an alliance of 29 independent member countries across North America and Europe, including rogue state Turkey, with an additional 21 countries participating in NATO’s Partnership for Peace programme and another 15 countries involved in institutionalized dialogue programmes. The Military Committee is NATO’s highest Military Authority.

Chairman of the Military Committee Czech Gen. Petr Pavel opened the meeting, saying the chiefs of defence will also make recommendations to alliance defence ministers on NATO’s command structure, which will keep the organization flexible and more responsive.

US Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, is participating in the NATO Military Committee meeting at the alliance headquarters.

‘Robust, Agile Command Structure’ Key to NATO Success

“A key component to NATO’s adaptation is a robust and agile command structure,” Pavel said. “We will focus on NATO Command Structure adaptation. We will receive briefings from [the Supreme Allied Commander Europe and the Supreme Allied Commander Transformation] on the recommended options for implementation and provide guidance ahead of the February defense ministerial.”

Changes to NATO’s command structure mean day-to-day organizations and common funding from the alliance, Pavel said. Then, there are NATO force structure changes, which are capabilities that nations provide in time of war or for exercises to prepare for war.

“I think any of these capabilities are going to be a balance between force structure and command structure,” Dunford said in an interview with reporters travelling with him.

The chiefs of defense will debate the plans put forward by U.S. European Command’s commander and Supreme Allied Commander Europe, Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti and Supreme Allied Commander Transformation French Air Force Gen. Denis Mercier. The chiefs will refine the plan to get to the right mix of force structure and command structure.

Developing a Permanent NATO Capability

Dunford believes some portion of this capability has to be permanent to allow a “warm start” to build on the force in time of war.

“We’ll try to make sure that, as military leaders, we recommend the most effective way to do it,” he said. “And then our political leadership will have a chance to make a decision.”

Protecting the Euro-Atlantic Link

Discussions will also seek to strengthen the Euro-Atlantic link. “This is about making sure that we have credibility in meeting our alliance commitments,” Dunford said. “And the Euro-Atlantic link must be protected in order for [NATO] to meet our alliance commitments.”

Afghanistan Still on the Agenda

The NATO leaders will invite partner nations in to speak about progress in Afghanistan, Pavel said. They will receive a briefing from Scaparrotti and Army Gen. John W. Nicholson, the commander of the alliance’s Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan.

“The effectiveness of the Afghan national defense and security forces is essential to the stability of Afghanistan, and to the assurance of the Afghan society,” Pavel said. “And the positive message about their progress and confidence to fight and win needs to be more widely heard.”

The partners will remain as the chiefs discuss NATO’s projecting stability efforts. These are aimed at countries in the Mediterranean, the Persian Gulf, Middle East and Central Asia, Pavel said.

Enhancing Stability After ISIS

“We will deliberate how allies’ and partners’ efforts can enhance stability in the area, and in turn support national plans for individual partners,” Pavel said. “Military cooperation is important, but only when combined with a range of other elements, such as the political, economic, judicial and social, can a sustained and lasting effect be achieved.”

NATO is a member of the coalition to defeat Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, and the organization’s chiefs of defense will discuss current efforts, now that the campaign in Iraq and Syria has reached an inflection point, Pavel said

“The [defeat-ISIS] campaign is not over — it now moves to a different phase which is less about combat operations and more about security and stabilization,” the general said. “We will therefore discuss the transformation of the global coalition and, in particular, NATO’s role in Iraq.”

Eastern Europe

The chiefs will also dedicate time to the situation in Georgia and Ukraine and the progress in training Ukrainian defense forces and assistance to the Georgian military.

Modernizing NATO

“Our final meeting will focus on NATO’s modernization,” Pavel said. “Since the Wales summit, and reinforced with the decisions taken at Warsaw summit, the alliance has adapted — politically, militarily, and institutionally. As we move forward, it is paramount importance that we provide an overall coherence to all our military activities. This is to ensure that all the resources at our disposal are used to the utmost effect.”

Recent talk of a European army can only irritate the USA, are we then seeing moves to develop a NATO army in a bid to see the rival off?

The Military Committee meets twice a year at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, at the level of Chiefs of Defence to discuss NATO operations and missions and provide the North Atlantic Council with consensus-based military advice on how the Alliance can best meet global security challenges. Once a year, they meet in an Allied member country.  On a day-to-day basis, their work is carried out by Permanent Military Representatives at NATO Headquarters in Brussels.

Sources: US Department of Defense; NATO

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