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American Forces Press Service

Dempsey: Overseas Stops Had New Strategy as Common Element

By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 26, 2012 – The new U.S. strategy was a common element in all three stops of a six-day overseas trip he concluded today, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey visited Jordan and Afghanistan before attending a conference of NATO and partner-nation chiefs of defense in Brussels, and he said the three stops tie together.

“As part of our new strategy, we’re looking to learn the lessons of the last 10 years and adapt the way we interact with partners,” he told American Forces Press Service shortly before landing at Joint Base Andrews, Md. “One of the principles of the new strategy is building partner capacity, so there’s a connection among those three stops.”

But each stop also included individual issues, the chairman said.

“In Jordan, it was their view of the region – in particular, Syria,” he said. “In Afghanistan, it was an update on current operations and how the Afghan security forces are doing, with particular interest in the development of the Afghan special operations forces.”

In Brussels, he added, he and his counterparts discussed Afghanistan, the upcoming NATO summit and the alliance’s interests in the Asia-Pacific region, as well as other topics.

“With the Chicago summit coming up, we were collectively, as military chiefs of defense, looking for ways to make that event meaningful in the evolution of the alliance,” Dempsey said, noting the Asia-Pacific discussion at NATO headquarters as part of that evolution.

The chairman said he, the Australian ambassador and Canada’s chief of defense briefed the conference today on changes taking place in the Asia-Pacific region, which includes everything from India through China as well as the Pacific Ocean.

The Australian ambassador briefed the defense chiefs on the region’s resources and on its economic, demographic and security trends, Dempsey said.

“And then he made what I thought was a very interesting comment: that the North Atlantic alliance’s western flank is on the Pacific,” the general said, noting that the United States and Canada are NATO nations and have the Pacific Ocean as their western border.

“And so we took the opportunity with that as kind of an intellectual challenge to us,” Dempsey said, “to spend some time talking about how we might begin to think about NATO’s interests in the Asia-Pacific -- which fundamentally begin with economic interests, but could include other interests along the way.”

Afghanistan was a key topic in yesterday’s sessions at NATO, and the chairman said he came away impressed by the level of commitment to meet the target set at the alliance’s November 2010 summit in Lisbon, Portugal, for Afghan forces to be responsible for security throughout their country by the end of 2014.

“On the part of the military committee, I can absolutely say that there is a genuine sense of commitment and a strong belief that we will achieve the Lisbon objectives on the timelines we’ve established,” he said.

But with 32 months remaining before the end of 2014, Dempsey noted, Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen, commander of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, still needs contributions from NATO and partner nations to meet the goal.

“The mission is constantly evolving, so what John Allen might have needed last year in terms of kinds of forces evolves as the Afghans become more capable, and it changes the way we interact with them,” the chairman explained. “So we go from unit by unit, side by side to more embedded teams, and that changes the requirement that John places on the alliance.

“And he had a great phrase he used yesterday that I will unashamedly borrow from him,” Dempsey continued. “He won’t ask for one more soldier than he needs, but he needs every soldier that he asks for. I thought that was pretty powerful.”

The general said he believes his fellow military leaders left the conference with a commitment to go back to their countries and see what they can do give Allen what he needs going forward. The mission in Afghanistan is hard, he acknowledged.

In Afghanistan on the day before he traveled to Brussels for the NATO conference, Dempsey saw demonstrations by Afghan commandos and special operations forces at NATO Training Mission Afghanistan’s Special Forces Training Center at Camp Morehead.

“Setbacks are going to occur, because the enemies are as intent on achieving their objectives as we are on achieving our objectives,” the general said, noting recent incidents of Afghan forces attacking coalition troops as an example.

“But what I come away from Afghanistan with this time is a sense not just of how we’re building units and equipping individuals – or even, for that matter, what skills they’re acquiring – I came away with a real sense of the value system that they are really just beginning to embrace as a force with standards and values,” Dempsey said.

“That was new to me,” he added. “I’ve seen a lot of stuff in Afghanistan, but that was new.”

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