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Current Allied Command Operations in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia


General James Jones, NATO Supreme Allied Commander, Europe (SACEUR) and US European Command (EUCOM) Commander
Foreign Press Center Briefing
Washington, DC
February 8, 2006


10:40 A.M. EST General John Jones at FPC

MODERATOR: Good morning and welcome to the Foreign Press Center. This morning we will have a briefing from the Supreme Allied Commander Europe and also the head of the U.S. Command of EUCOM, General Jones. He will make an opening statement on current NATO and EUCOM operations and vision and then he will be happy to take your questions from those here and our colleagues in New York.

General Jones, thank you for coming.

GEN JONES: Thank you. Good morning. It's a great pleasure to be with you. I will talk very, very briefing and I'm more interested in answering your questions, so I'll just talk about a few things with regard to NATO and the United States European Command.

NATO, I think in 2006 is about to take on some of the most interesting and challenging missions in its history and to deliver on some concepts that were born in the Prague summit in 2002. NATO finds itself today engaged in operations on three different continents, approximately 30,000 troops deployed. By far its most ambitious operation is the expansion of the NATO presence in Afghanistan. It's quite possible that by the end of this year, Afghanistan will be a NATO operation. In the immediate future we plan on expanding into what we call Stage Three of our basic plan which is an expansion into the southern region of Afghanistan to be followed quickly by an expansion into Stage Four which is the eastern sector of the country which would essentially put NATO in charge of the operation.

It's been an evolving partnership between Operation Enduring Freedom and the NATO mission and we're looking forward to bringing the missions under one command and control headquarters and completing the plan that was laid out and briefed to nations in Munich in 2004.

Additionally this year, NATO hopes to bring to full operational capability the NATO Response Force, also created at the Prague summit in 2002. This full operational capability is the most transformational --transformationally visible I should say -- military capability that did not exist until after the Prague summit: roughly a 25,000-manned, combined arms -- that's to say land, sea, air and special operations combined force able to deploy rapidly. Lead elements should be ready to go within five days of receipt of mission. The NATO Response Force has just completed its first significant operation in Pakistan in support of the earthquake victims and is, as we speak, backloading its aircraft in ships and returning home with a first successful mission.

NATO's also busily engaged in the Balkans, notably in Kosovo where we have over 16,000 troops in the Mediterranean where NATO is fulfilling the mandates of Operation Active Endeavour, which is NATO's only Article 5 mission, the counterterrorism mission. It has been busily carrying out that mission for just about three years. NATO also is training -- helping to train young Iraqi officers at a camp just near Baghdad, called Iskandariya*(ph). I was just there a few weeks ago to watch the first graduating class of young Iraqi officers that took the oath to defend the constitution of Iraq and we are quite proud of NATO's contributions not only in the training mission at that camp, but also with the training outside of Iraq in several countries and also helping the Iraqi army acquire the equipment that it needs by spearheading a donors drive, if you will, to find quality equipment that then goes to the emerging new Iraqi army.

In Africa, NATO is providing assistance to the African Union along with other international organizations to lift troops into the Sudan and to help the African Union forces in developing increased capacity, such as how to do expeditionary operations, logistics, command and control, joint operations and the like.

This year NATO will also conduct an important live exercise in Cape Verde which will test the NATO Response Force one more time, prior to hopefully declaring full operational capability in October of this year.

The United States European Command is also engaged in its own transformation. I would qualify that for you as saying that while we're reducing our -- the total numbers of our forces, that mass in the 21st century doesn't equal capability. The forces that we will have left based in Europe and Africa will be forces that are strategically agile and will be able to have greater strategic effect than the Cold War version of our footprint, which was massive, fixed, fairly linear and not able to go any place very rapidly.

We've been hard at work on this for over three years now. Obviously, the United States European Command is supporting the United States Central Command in its efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq and particularly with U.S. Army forces. But our changed footprint is a matter of record now and we are in the implementation process and it will take a while. It's not going to be done overnight, but we are excited about the process and the transformation of our capability, which as I mentioned to you will serve to make us strategically more agile and to be able to be involved more proactively in the art of preventing crisis and conflict in parts of our 91-country theater of operations that would benefit by working with friends and allies to, as I said, prevent future crises and conflicts.

So with that as an opening, ladies and gentlemen, I'll be happy to respond to any questions you might have concerning either NATO or the U.S. European Command.

MODERATOR: I would like to remind people to wait for the microphone before you ask your question, identify your news organization, and for those in New York, if they would step in front of the camera if they have any questions.

Please, to Finland.

QUESTION: Jyri Raivio, Finland. Until these past few days the (inaudible) of Norwegians and Finnish (inaudible) forces have been under constant attack by the general public in Afghanistan based on this so-called cartoon crisis. How well prepared are these troops for that kind of activity and then what's your comment on this development in Afghanistan?

GEN JONES: Well, you're correct, there have been some demonstrations in different parts of Afghanistan; first, in Kabul and then spreading to different areas. I'm very happy to be able to say that at least at first -- upon first examination that ISAF did a very good job in responding appropriately to those demonstrations. I would also say that despite some initial difficulties, the Afghan policy and security capabilities, notably in Kabul, responded quite well. And ultimately, in Meymaneh (ph) where we had the other outbreak, the local forces were able to restore law and order without -- and avoid what could have become a very dangerous situation. The performance of ISAF troops under the command of Italian LTG del Vecchio, I think, was very, very consistent with the rules of engagements and capabilities. They exercised restraint, they followed the rules of engagement, and right now, at least as of this morning, calm and order is being restored.

MODERATOR: Turkey.

QUESTION: Umit Enginsoy, Turkey, NTV. General, this is a question for you in your capacity as the EUCOM Commander. Stars And Stripes reported the other day that U.S. troops stationed in Europe have been advised by their commanders to avoid cinema theaters showing a recently released Turkish film, a blockbuster in Turkish standards, which demonizes U.S. troops in Iraq.

Are you aware of this and do such popular cultural products have a capacity to harm the relationship between the two countries?

GEN JONES: Well, I think that local commanders can judge what's best for their troops and make their own decision. We do not have a policy in the United States European Command to avoid any movie theaters or anything of that nature.

Obviously, films and things that are of interest to the public, in general, do shape opinions. It's important that we separate fact from fiction and that people's opinions are based on what is true and what is correct. It's important that passions not be inflamed needlessly one way or the other and I think where Turkish-American Force relations are concerned, that our relations are excellent and improving each day and each year. I've spent three years working with General Özkök, the Chief of Staff of the Turkish Armed Forces and I value his friendship, his leadership, his wisdom, and I'm very happy with the state of relations that we enjoy.

MODERATOR: We'll go to New York, please.

QUESTION: Yes, my name is Renzo Cianfanelli, Italy -- Corriere della Sera. Sir, my question is twofold. I have spent a long time in Iraq and in Bosnia with NATO forces and in Iraq with the U.S. and the Italian forces. And so, the question is, you had mentioned the expansion of the role of NATO in Afghanistan.

Do you see NATO becoming a kind of global force, a global rapid intervention force for out of area operations in the 21st century? And the second question is more specific and it has to do with the expansion of NATO eastwards. I know when I was based in Moscow that there was very strong opposition to such an expansion and now it seems to have come down. But do you see if and when Ukraine might, one day, join NATO? Do you see this tension reemerge somehow? Thank you.

GEN JONES: Thank you. With regard to the first question, I think that what we're seeing in NATO is a transformation not only in terms of military capability, but also in terms of, shall I say, philosophy. The 20th century NATO was always conceived to be a static reactive defensive alliance. It was never really projected to go anywhere out of area and the 21st century realities are calling for a NATO that is more agile, more flexible, and more expeditionary. And I think the summary that I just gave you about NATO's involvements across three continents is proof of the fact that the 21st century security challenges that are mainly asymmetric for the moment call for NATO to be able to be more proactive in its mindset than reactive.

I wouldn't characterize NATO as becoming a global policeman. NATO will go where political guidance directs us to go, working closely with the accepted political decision-making authorities like the United Nations, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and others to see where it can be helpful. But I think we're seeing that, whether it's in the case of disaster relief or humanitarian operations or training missions in remote parts of the world where NATO can bring stability and security and help struggling democracies achieve their ultimate goals and -- for their people, which is a better life and more secure life and economic opportunities, that if it's the will of the nations at NATO, bringing its capacity to do those kinds of things, I think you'll find enormous capacity in the alliance.

With regard to the second part of the question about NATO expansion to the east, it's a fact that in 2004 NATO did expand by seven nations, going from 19 to 26, and many of those countries were to the east of the traditional boundaries associated with NATO in the 20th century. One of the countries that we have increasingly closer relations with is Russia. There is a NATO-Russia Council. There is a metric whereby NATO and Russia are embarked in very acute displays of achieving interoperability.

In a few days two Russian warships will join Operation Active Endeavour in the Mediterranean as full partners in that operation which is NATO's -- as I mentioned, Article 5 operation against terrorism in the Mediterranean. So the bonds -- the military-to-military bonds are stronger and increasing with each year over the past two years. At NATO -- at my headquarters we have a Russian general officer and a staff that live and work amongst us and work to develop this growing partnership which resulted -- has resulted in this, as I said, this full membership of Russia in Operation Active Endeavour.

I think it's important that we continue to work with Russia to make sure that Russia understands that in this asymmetric world that we face and the types of threats that we face, these are common threats. They're not just oriented towards Russia or towards the alliance, but towards all of us. And we must work together to bring about the conditions that enhance our security concerns and we can do that better by working together. And that -- that is a little bit of what I think we're seeing going on in the NATO-Russia relationship and in the NATO U.S. European Command relationship as well. We are very open in what we're doing. We're very careful to explain what it is we're doing, so that there's no misunderstanding. And my relations with the Russian Chief of Defense, General Baluyevsky have been very candid, very forthright and very transparent on all of the issues, so I'm very happy with the direction that we're moving in.

MODERATOR: I'd like to go for another question from New York, please.

QUESTION: Nikola Krastev, Radio Free Europe. General Jones, I have two questions. The first one is what are the concerns that NATO, that NATO-led forces in Afghanistan may eventually be drawn into combat operations, fighting Taliban fighters or search operations for al-Qaida? And the second question is regarding your operations in Afghanistan, does NATO at this point have any contacts or liaisons with the military in the other Central Asian republics, particularly Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan or Turkmenistan? Thank you.

GEN JONES: The expansion of the alliance in Afghanistan has dealt with the issues of whether those nations are willing to do or not willing to do in terms of counterterrorism and antiterrorism. We have worked that out in such a way that we feel confident that the mission can expand under NATO and those countries that wish to participate in the more offensive part of the counterterrorist mission are free to do so and we have a very well developed mechanism by which they can do so. Everyone -- every nation in Afghanistan is concerned about force protection and in that sense, an antiterrorist which is defensive capacity. We have to assure the security of our forces and the security of our mission. That is fully understood by all nations. And so we have put into motion the structures that will guarantee that nations are doing what they expect to be able to do, that they're doing it in a safe way and that we're also able to continue with the mission, the more aggressive mission which will be led by the United States Central Command and the prosecution over the more aggressive phase of a counterterrorist campaign.

The situation in Afghanistan, in my view is, in terms of threats, is multifaceted. I'm not so much concerned about a return of the Taliban or al-Qaida as much as I am about the success of the war on drugs which is accounting for about 50 percent of the gross domestic product of that country. To me that's a much more serious problem. It has its own threats with regard to violence. I would also identify corruption, criminality and other aspects of the threat envelope that face all of us in Afghanistan, not just ISAF. And it's incumbent upon us to make sure that we help the Karzai government bring to full capability the instruments of governance, the instruments of security, of policing, of a rule of law that will allow Afghanistan to function increasingly more and more independently from the allied efforts to assist the reconstruction of the company **(sic, country?)**. This will take time but I think it's a road that we're on and it's -- it will be a success in the future.

With regard to relationships with neighboring countries, as NATO assumes more and more responsibility of the mission, I think there will be dialogue at the NATO level and also at the ISAF level with regard to the security at the borders and the relationships with aligned countries which neighbor Afghanistan. I think this is logical and we expect that to happen in the course of normal events as things unroll in the next few months.

QUESTION: Marco Bardazzi, Italy, the Italian news agency ANSA. General, in a hearing before a senate committee you said that NATO is exploring ways to protect Europe from terror attacks designed to disrupt energy deliveries. I was wondering if you could elaborate on this and how serious you think is the threat of attacks to the energy deliveries to Europe.

GEN JONES: I think that the NATO is certainly one of the topics that's being discussed in the European press and in the corridors of NATO is, in fact, how secure our common access to energy is. Is it vulnerable to disruption? If so, how? And in the context of examining how NATO might be useful to the common -- to the protection of the common security of our friends and allies, what kind of role could NATO play in that if it were asked to play a role in not only the protection of the delivery of energy but also the protection of our critical infrastructure. And this is part and parcel of the discussions that have gone on as a result of global events such as the NATO -- the Russia-Ukraine situation with regard to the pipelines, events in Nigeria and other parts of the world that they're certainly focusing our attention on the questions of access and the security of access to energy.

QUESTION: Mounzer Sleiman with Al-Mustaqba Al-Arabi. You mentioned, General, the 12,000 combination forces as rapid deployment. Can you give us just a overview of the composition of these forces? At the same time, there was an attempt to form European rapid forces. It's not the right name for it, but some kind. Is this 12,000 forces are a replacement of that notion or they're still being contemplated by some European to do that? And at the same time, there is any restriction on the operation location for the 12,000 forces? Is it only limited to supporting stability or engaging in combat situation outside European theater?

GEN JONES: Well, if you're referring to the NATO Response Force, the rotations of the NATO Response Force are not 12,000; they're 25,000. Twenty-five thousand is the structure of the rotation. It is composed of a land component, a maritime component, an aviation component and a Special Forces component. The thing that makes it different is that it's all under one command. Usually NATO has always had these capabilities but have operated independently of one another. This is the first time that NATO has created a response capability that is integrated, trained and certified to respond to seven distinct missions that of the Prague summit of '02 assigned to the NATO Response Force. The range of the missions goes from the high end of forcible entry operations to the low end of emergency disaster relief and humanitarian aid.

So we train to the range of the missions that we have given to us and the purpose of the NATO Response Force is to be a standby force that can be used in a crisis situation. One of the things that we just remember is that the odds of using all 25,000 simultaneously for one mission are very, very low. The probability of using packages that are specially created to respond to a particular crisis, as we did in Pakistan, which probably accounted for about 2,000 personnel, is really the way that the NATO Response Force brings value to the alliance that it did not have before.

And so these small task organized groups can, in fact, go off independently for short periods of time. The NATO Response Force is not a force that is designed to go and do long-term missions; it's to go quickly and be able to stabilize a situation perhaps for approximately 120 days or so, and then if there's more forces required they would be replaced by a force that would arrive in due time.

In the European Union, the European Union has developed a concept called battle groups, their battle groups as a response capability. These battle groups are generally battalion sized and operate more on the peacekeeping side of the house, but since most nations who are members of the EU are also members of NATO, we are really drawing on the same pool of manpower and therefore the forces that are allocated for participation in European Union missions as members of battle groups could the next year be the same forces that are also allocated for duty within the NATO Response Force. So the pool is essentially roughly the same from which we draw and organize these capabilities and so far it seems to be working quite well.

MODERATOR: We have a follow-up quickly.

QUESTION: The composition from each country -- which countries contributing to the forces?

GEN JONES: Well, we have in NATO what we call a force generation process. What we do at my headquarters at SHAPE, at the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers in Europe, is we hold force generation conferences with member countries and countries offer forces to round out the requirements of the NATO Response Force. Once the force is generated, then we have the responsibility of training the force and certifying the force as being ready, and then it proceeds up to a six-month watch period where it's a ready force for a six-month period before it's replaced by another force that is being prepared.

We are now on the sixth rotation since the creation of the NRF and we are generating the forces right now. We generate forces two years ahead of time for NRF 7, 8, 9 and 10, which accounts for about a two-year period, each one of those being generated for about six months.

Does that answer your question?

QUESTION: By country toll, which countries contributing how many soldiers? How many soldiers from each country?

GEN JONES: Country by country?

QUESTION: Well, generally. I mean, I know you cannot --

GEN JONES: I would be here for an hour to give you that answer. However, that's not a classified answer. If you'd like to know, I'll be happy to -- we'll be happy to tell you which countries are contributing, say, to NRF 6, if you like. That's easy.

MODERATOR: We'll go to New York.

QUESTION: Yes, good morning. I'm Martin Suter. I'm here for a (inaudible) newspaper in Switzerland. There are writers who say that Israel eventually should be integrated or kind of be associated member of NATO. Now, clearly, this is a question that has to be answered by governments, but I wonder, especially vis-ŕ-vis the open question of Iran's nuclear programs, how intensive (inaudible) exists as the military corporation between NATO and the Israeli Defense Force?

GEN JONES: Thank you. The Israel Government is a member of the Mediterranean Dialogue, which is a group of seven nations that form the Mediterranean Dialogue to have a formal relationship with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The seven member nations are Mauritania, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, Jordan and Israel. And this dialogue is to enhance the military-to-military cooperation on security issues, especially focused on terrorism of the Mediterranean Basin, primarily.

As such, we have had, this past year, increasing interest voiced by the Med Dialogue nations to become more involved in Operation Active Endeavour, which is the maritime counterterrorist operation that we spoke of earlier in this briefing. And so, I would characterize -- I would answer your question by saying that we already have a relationship with Israel and six other Med Dialogue countries and whatever happens in the future, of course, will be dictated by political decisions and we'll address those as they happen.

MODERATOR: In the front row, please.

QUESTION: Cem Rifat Sey, Germany, Deutsche Welle, Germany. Operation Enduring Freedom and ISAF are two different missions and they have two different objectives. If you say you have one command and the forces of ISAF could also participate in more aggressive operations if they wish, how can you ensure the difference between two -- these two missions? Isn't it one mission left?

And what is the reaction of all the militia forces in the southern part of Afghanistan and the eastern part of Afghanistan who still freely operate there? And some NATO officials told me some months ago that this plan to go to the fourth step of the operation until the end of 2006 -- is this still realistic?

GEN JONES: Well, we do have -- we have found an agreed-upon way in the Alliance -- 26 nations agreeing on how to preserve the identity of Operation Enduring Freedom and ISAF. And we have established and 26 nations have agreed on the command and control mechanism to do that and essentially, it's centered around the fact that the Deputy Commander for Security will be a dual-headed officer. He will be an American officer. On one half, he will be in charge of security for the ISAF portion of the mission, and on the other half he will be responsible for also coordinating the more aggressive counterterrorist mission that will be conducted by United States Central Command in coordination with ISAF.

This is not terribly difficult militarily. It will involve coordination, but it certainly fits into our -- to the common concern for maintaining security in the overall country. Without going into a lot of detail, I would just emphasize the fact that we have addressed these issues, that they are two distinct missions, and that we found the mechanism that everyone has agreed to, by which the identity of both can be preserved for the better good and the better attainment of our common objectives.

With regard to the reaction of the militias, I can't predict how that will happen, but I will say to you that after Stage Three expansion, the capacity that is being brought by NATO countries, notably Australia, Romania, Canada, the U.K., and the Netherlands into Stage Three will provide for almost 2,500 to 3,000 more soldiers on the ground than ever before. So, the capacity is going to be increased. Now, what effect that has on the militias, only time will tell, but I do believe that with the Stage Three and Stage Four forces that we currently have on the ground, you are -- we are creating a military capability that will be vastly more effective, more superior, at least, potentially, than anything we've had there in the past.

Now you had another --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

GEN JONES: Oh, the Stage Four can happen very quickly, I think, once Stage Three reaches its full operational capability, because Stage Four is essentially already generated and that would be a U.S.-led sector. And not only that, but I would also tell you that there is another element, which is to provide more forces for the security of the capital region and that will be handled by Turkey and France in collaboration. So, I believe that it's quite possible that as things unfold, that we can do -- we can set out what the plan called for us to do and that's to bring Stage Three and Stage Four in the capital region -- you know, to where we plan that they be by the end of this year.

MODERATOR: In the front row here.

QUESTION: Dubravka Savic, Serbia and Montenegro, Vercenje Novosti. I have a question on Kosovo. Talks on Kosovo are about to start soon. How do you assess the Turkey situation in Kosovo in the wake of this cause -- on these talks and -- you know, will any additional measures -- will be put in place, especially concerning the protection of minorities which are targeted almost on an everyday basis? And can you please comment on possible withdrawal of K-4, which was mentioned recently? Thank you.

GEN JONES: Since the disturbances and uprisings of 2004, KFOR capabilities have changed dramatically. We have been successful in removing a large percentage of national caveats and restrictions which precluded many of our forces from doing certain missions that seriously inhibited our ability to do our work. We have many more forces now that are fully trained and capable with regard to several disturbance-type missions. We have modified the rules of engagement to reflect more capability and more emphasis has been put on the forces that are out in the field working and establishing better networks with the local populations in Kosovo to have a better feel for what is actually going on and what people are thinking and what the sense of the population is in the country.

I'm happy to be able to report that since those days in 2004, that we have been able to maintain the peace and there have not been any significant disturbances and we're certainly hoping that that's going to continue during the status talk. As to the possibility of any withdrawal of KFOR, I'm not familiar with any of that. Occasionally, I'll read stories about it, but KFOR is one of NATO's primary missions and we intend to make sure that we're successful in 2006, particularly at this very delicate time, and I don't know of any plan to withdraw KFOR.

MODERATOR: Can we go to New York, please?

QUESTION: Good morning, General. My name is Bjorn Malmquist from Icelandic National Broadcasting Service. You are probably now aware of -- there have been talks between the U.S. Government and the Icelandic Government regarding the future of the U.S. base in Keflavik. I was interested in hearing your views as Supreme Commander of NATO as to the future role of the base in Keflavik. Thank you.

GEN JONES: Well, I think the bilateral discussions between the United States and Iceland are, as you pointed out, ongoing and it would be premature for me to comment about how they might come out. This is a bilateral relationship and not a NATO relationship. So we'll wait and see how the ongoing talks come out and we'll execute the orders that were given as a result of those discussions.

Iceland is a full partner of NATO -- has been for many, many years. And NATO has treaty obligations to provide for the common security and common defense of member nations. And on that particular score, NATO is fully capable, I'm sure, of responding to the security needs of its member nations to include Iceland. And that part of it is unchanged. So I think we're talking about a bilateral discussion that's ongoing, the results of which we'll have to wait for and then we'll proceed from there.

QUESTION: We have time for two more quick ones. One from New York, please.

MR. MCCORMACK: Nevena Mandadjieva, Bulgarian News Agency. General Jones, could you make a brief assessment of the level of interoperability of (inaudible) forces and of the level of participation as well, the (inaudible) forces of the new members, especially Bulgaria and Romania? And if the answer is they are not really prepared, what are the main steps to be undertaken to meet fully the requirement of NATO and to be fully prepared for operations with NATO operations? Thank you.

GEN JONES: I will give you a general answer to that question. The accession of our seven newest members in the alliance has been a source of great satisfaction to all of us across many fronts. On the military front, of course, many countries to include Romania and Bulgaria are also undergoing their own national transformation of their capabilities in order to make their forces more useful in this new century. It is not unlike the transformation that many of the older nations in the alliance are also doing in order to make themselves more useful.

Essentially, we're all trying to collapse massive forces that are very fixed and don't have much mobility into something that's more useful and more agile and more expeditionary. Each country in the alliance is proceeding at its own pace and its own manner to do that. And we regularly provide advice and training teams and the like to any country that would like to know what it is the alliance needs and how they can best contribute. Our relations with Bulgaria and Romania have been superb on all aspects of that transformation and we look forward to our continued work together. So there is no adverse remark here whatsoever.

To the contrary, I think it's very exciting and very positive, although I recognize that -- we all recognize it takes time and it takes budgets.

The one thing that we all should remember is that transformation is about developing greater capability -- more relevant capability and each nation must look at itself and decide how best to do that.

One of the disappointments thus far, I think that the Secretary General has pointed out many times, is that the level of investment in budgets for national security across the board in the alliance has decreased since the Prague summit of 2002. The informal agreement was to maintain a budget level of about 2 percent of the gross domestic product as a floor or a minimum of investments. And today in the alliance only seven countries are at 2 percent or better. Obviously, if we could remedy that, that would make our transformational goals more achievable and would hasten the pace at which we are trying to make our forces more relevant in the 21st century.

MODERATOR: We have time for one more question. No questions? No?

General, thank you very much.

GEN JONES: My pleasure. Thank you very much.

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