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SACEUR  /  Speeches & Transcripts  /  SACEUR, General Curtis M. Scaparrotti's, media roundtable at the end of the NATO Defence Ministers

SACEUR, General Curtis M. Scaparrotti's, media roundtable at the end of the NATO Defence Ministers

GENERAL CURTIS SCAPARROTTI: Good Afternoon. Thanks for the opportunity today to highlight the important work our service members are doing across the Alliance in this challenging security environment.
It has been a productive two days, meeting with the Defense Ministers on several topics. It has been an opportunity for me to share my thoughts on what Allied Command Operations is doing with the tasks that came out of the Summit, to discuss where we are heading, and to get their direction and guidance. Getting together in this type of setting is always beneficial.
Our operations, activities and exercises demonstrate it is ready and it's responsive. The readiness initiative and the adaptation of the NATO Command structure and the new military strategy fosters a culture of readiness that strengthens our coherence. Each of those was talked about or addressed by the defense ministers. These are necessary efforts to ensure security and wellbeing in the Euro-Atlantic area.
These activities support a unified alliance military strategy, enhance our unity of effort, support effective deterrence and defense and will enhance resource and force efficiencies in Afghanistan. Afghanistan continues to be a challenging environment. Our resolute support mission is achieving success in training, advising and assisting the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces.
In our resolute support effort coupled with coalition counterterrorism effort is designed to bring the Taliban to a political negotiation. Our objective is to ensure that Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for international terrorists who can threaten us or home. In Kosovo, for almost 20 years NATO has been working to keep Kosovo and the region safe and secure.
Though our assistance and advice we've helped to build up the capacity of the Kosovo security force and its civilian institutions. We welcome Kosovo's aspirations to improve its ability to ensure safety and security for all its inhabitants as well as to contribute to security in the Western Balkans.
In Iraq we're building upon our current training activities. I just visited the NATO training mission in Iraq and NATO is already advising Iraqi officials and training and advising instructors at their professional military education institutions to develop Iraq's capacity to build more effective national security structures and professional military education institutions.
NATO exercises remain an important element of the alliance's readiness and continued adaptation to new security challenges. They ensure our troops are able to respond to threats from any direction and demonstrate that the alliance stands ready to defend all allies and is committed to protecting our shared values. We must remain committed to this alliance; the greatest alliance in history.
The alliance is forthcoming 70th anniversary reminds us all of the challenges we face together and our collective success in preserving the security of the Euro-Atlantic area so I believe this is critical to our success. Alliance unity was one of the main themes throughout the meetings of the defense ministers over the past two days. And with that, I'll take your questions.
Q: Sir, I'm wondering how difficult. Hello.
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: Good to see you again.
Q: Good to see you too. I'm wondering how difficult it is to plan in Afghanistan right now for the possibility of peace and the possibility of failure. How do you do that with all the moving parts that are there and all the logistics and the troops and the various missions?
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: Yes, well my part - my part of this on the NATO side, because we're doing the train, advise and assist side, that mission is unchanged at this point. But what you're saying to me is we do have to - you would expect your military commanders to look at what the assumptions may be and as those assumptions change what does that mean to our mission.
That - that was actually - that kind of planning was a topic of the defense ministers, they discussed this. And next week it will be - they're going to take this up in the NAC as part of the policy because really, I know I do these things based on the political guidance from the NAC to my headquarters and that will shape what we're doing. But we've been doing prudent planning about how this may come.
The second thing I would say is I'm blessed with in SHAPE and particularly our headquarters, the nation's best. I got 29 nations. They send their very best planners and strategists, et cetera, their key people and that diversity in and of itself I've found to be remarkable. I mean it really is a powerful kind of additive to what would normally be a planning exercise maybe by just one nation. So I'm -- I'm confident that we've got the right people to think about these things.
Q: Can I follow up on that question? What did you mean when you said planning vis-a-vis Afghanistan? What kind of planning is happening?
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: Well no, it's just prudent. I said prudent planning.
Q: But does that meaning planning for troop reductions among the ...
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: No, not at all. As I said, our mission hasn't changed, it's not a reduction. What we're looking at right now is -- is if there were reconciliation, for instance we looked at, what are the principles, et cetera? What's history tell us about post-reconciliation and what might need to be done to foster that security, that stability. So, it's very general at this point and until -- until there are some decisions made that's all -- all I'm going to do. What I will clarify is that, I mentioned the Defense Ministers talked about it and also that it would probably be a discussion next week in the NAC. Anything beyond that little bit I just described, I get their policy guidance first and then I work from there.
Q: So sir, just to be clear -- prudent planning that you're doing right now does not include planning for troop reduction?
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: No, it does not.
Q: And so when the Acting Secretary just said there would be no unilateral withdrawals, does that presuppose there will be no withdrawals? Are they not planning for withdrawals?
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: Well the -- here's what I would say to you and I'd go back to what I heard the Defense Ministers, many of them say, we came together, we go out together. Anything we do is going to be collaborative.
So, and at this point, no, there's been no decision on a withdrawal, no guidance on that at all. We are doing the same mission that we were doing two weeks ago, a month ago.
Q: (inaudible) from Kosovo, regarding the Secretary General and those statements about KSF and law that was approved in the parliament. So, the NATO, you have engagement with KSF in the future. In your opinion, how do you see this engagement and how you need to be for the next (inaudible) KSF?
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: Well, first of all, the KFOR Mission that we have, that's the mission I have, is to ensure a safe and secure environment, that's our mission. There are other entities that look at the development of the KSF, et cetera, but I have the KFOR Mission.
And so that in and of itself hasn't changed as a result of the announcement. And if it were to -- if there are to be any changes in that, based on a further transition of KSF, et cetera, then again, I go back to the NAC and they will discuss that and give me policy guidance.
That's the same as the Sec. Gen. saying, as he has, that this will have to be considered, any changes will have to be considered among the 29. So right now, KFOR’s Mission stays the same.
Q: You're waiting for the decision from the NAC right?
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: I have to have a decision from the NAC if I were to change, but I think we're in the right posture today, without a doubt.
Q: And just to -- I think there's probably a little confusion here in the Afghan question and I apologize, but if this is kind of the same thing twice. But, I mean, kind of what you're saying, I understand it as it's kind of like you're looking at new cell phone data plan. You haven't bought it yet and you're looking at the -- you're going to use this much memory or this much and that just happens to be the training set down going forward, where you get to deal with Force Generation Conference, you have to deal with a lot of stuff looking ahead, so to me it sounds like you're describing a situation where the defense ministers are talking about, what can we do with less if we have to?
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: We didn't even … no. Let me be clear here, when I mentioned prudent planning, I'm talking about a thought process that's really not in a great deal of detail yet. Because I can't do quote planning like you might think about that, without the policy guidance from the NAC and I don't have that yet.
So, the one example I gave you was just thinking about the principles that would inform us for planning for a post-reconciliation environment, et cetera.
That's - but it's not the kind of military planning that you all know we're capable of doing. I don't have that authority yet. And I don't have the direction to do it, or the - the guidance, or the decision to drive it, OK? So I do need to be clear about that.
Q: So it's, sort of, like if this happens, then these are the options. If this were to happen, these are the options.
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: No it's not even that yet - not even that. It's actually more along the lines of what the environment might be, and what does that mean to us. So, you know, very - very broad, general. Not specific - not against a specific outcome yet.
Q: On the Readiness Initiative, the initial plan was to have 30 battalions ready in by 2020. Is it still 2020 or now?
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: Yes. I mean, we will - what we'll do is - my timeline is that we have them designated. I want to get my timing right here. It's coming into - the October DefMin will actually be the next waypoint for - for providing those units - what nations are providing those units, OK?
So that'll give you an idea. So by 2020 we should be there. The way I would describe this is, the nations have given me, as the SACEUR, a - a lay-down of what their capabilities are that are available, OK?
What - what we've done with NRIs, we want to take of that existing set, which one of those will you provide at a - at a higher readiness rate on a shorter timeline, if that makes sense to you. So we're really not building the alliance overall force group. We're - we're actually moving some of those elements into a category of readiness that, given our environment, is more relevant.
So, I'd - you know, I'm confident they're there. And I think we'll - we'll be good by next - by this coming fall. We had some countries provide specific, you know, units today. And some others said they made the commitment that when we come to the Force Generation Conference coming in this summer that they will be ready to do so.
Q: And are we talking about notice to move from 10 days, or is it more 30 days?
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: We're working at ...
Q: Or are you going (inaudible)?
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: ... the 30 was - was - 30 days or less was the original, you know? But I'm actually looking at some variation of that. I'll just leave it at that. That's - that's, again, you know, our best military advice will be given. And again, the NAC and the - and the policymakers will decide what's right. So we're still in that design phase.
Q: So would it be possible to count the troops in the VJTF?
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: That's one of the ...
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: ... that's one of the - that's one of the decisions that we got to make, how do you count it because nations, obviously, are interested in that as well.
Q: So a quick follow-up on that, how - the decision making process - the political side is notoriously long. It doesn't matter how fast you go. How - how - how interesting or convenient would it be for you, or important even, to have just a little more flexibility in the way that orders can be given, and the use of the (inaudible)?
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: Interestingly enough, over the time that I've been the SACEUR we've actually had this conversation in different ways with - with the council. And so, in the time that I've been here, we've - we've developed means in order to get advanced guidance to me in areas that I thought I needed more authority or a little more insight as to what -- flexibility we could have with the units, just generally.
I think the Council actually is -- you know, they understand the environment. And my job is to explain that to them and tell them what I may need to be ready in a specific region or in a specific event. And I think they've been responsive in that regard, as the -- as the SACEUR.
I am working some things that have to do with our -- our planning for conflict, that has to do with authorities. And given the speed of information and the speed of influence today on people, that I think needs to change from what we have set today and what we call crisis response measures.
But that's something we're -- we're working on, and I don't want to go into detail with it here. But just to tell you yes, that's a factor. And decision-making and the speed of it is something that -- that NATO realizes needs to change, given the environment we live in today.
Q: Just on the INF, you know, there's a six-month window where Russia could potentially come back into compliance. When we spoke to Stoltenberg a couple days ago, he talked about considering options, quote, "in the military domain" on what your going to be doing in the short term. Could you flush that out for a little bit?
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: No, I don't want to flush it out too much, frankly. What I would tell you is that, one, mainly because this is a collaborative process, particularly in NATO, you've got 29 nations. And -- and we've got to address the 29 nations. And we have -- you know, we've said that this will be collaborative. It'll be -- it'll be the function of 29 nations.
The first priority is -- is that Russia come back into compliance. And then if that were not to happen, then what are the next steps. And -- and we're -- you know, we're working on that.
I think it will be -- it will be conventional. We've said that, not nuclear. And I think that -- I think that as we get to the other end, you'll see this is a multi-domain approach.
We often go right to the -- you know, is it a ground missile? Because it's a ground missile that Russia put forward. I would tell you that in today's world, there’s a number of ways to address this and we will -- we will, over time, here as an alliance, see what we think are the best -- you know, the best way across many domains to do that.
Q: But within that planning, you're much further in concrete measures compared to Afghanistan, for example, and the drawdown there?
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: There are those within the Alliance that, you know, we've begun looking at this. Yes.
Q: Troop deployments? Anything changing with forward posture?
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: No, not at this time. Again, this is -- we've got some time here. The only thing I will say to -- to tie onto that is that, you know, what we do today, what we've been doing for two months before this, three months before, four months before this, is that -- is that our activities, our dynamic activities across the Euro-Atlantic, our forced posture.
You know, it's -- it's designed to deter, to ensure that we avoid conflict because we're a defensive alliance. And -- and so all of that's a part of this deterrence too, and it has an impact on if we leave the INF Treaty, we still are doing things today that all are part and parcel of what will be a response, if that makes sense to you.
Moderator: Sir, we need to walk out at -- in two minutes. Do you have any last points that you want to make or anything you want to leave them with?
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: Well, I -- you know, there's a couple things. I did -- I did address -- we didn't talk about it. NATO Mission Iraq, I visited there. I -- frankly, hats off to the -- to the command, the Canadian commander and the folks that are there.
We're not at full strength yet, but they didn't wait. They're leaning forward. I think they're doing good work with the Iraqis, as I said, with their professional development institutions, their schools for their military. And -- and their security sector.
And -- and they're off to a good start. I'll be excited to see this as we can work in and get them at full strength and bring in the remainder of the -- of our assets there. But a good start and -- in Iraq.
And I think that's probably it because we talked about -- we talked about Afghanistan, which I visited recently as well.
And the point I would make on Kosovo is, is that KFOR's the glue. You know, that, no matter who you are in that region, they -- every time I travel, they point to KFOR being, you know, kind of that -- that rock of stability and how important it is for safety and security and stability.
And, you know, we've got a good command there, and they'll continue to ensure that safety and security, and I think that's the most important point, despite the fact that there's tensions in -- in the Balkans, without a doubt.
Q: Sir, is it going to be just as hard to fill the billets in the Iraq mission than it is in the Afghan mission, or (inaudible)?
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: Actually, I'm pleased with the way we've filled it out. You know brand-new mission. It required assets like helicopters, et cetera. We filled that pretty quickly within the alliance. It showed the unity of the alliance, and it demonstrated the importance that all the nations saw that (inaudible). So we're actually doing very well.
OK? Thanks for your time.
Q: Thanks.
Q: Thank you.

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