SPAIN–(ENEWSPF)–17 September 2011. Chiefs of Defence (CHODs) and Military Representatives (MRs) of the twenty-eight NATO member countries have concluded two days of meetings in Seville hosted by the Spanish Chief of Defence. Chaired by Admiral Giampaolo Di Paola, Chairman of the Military Committee, this high-level military meeting is the first major official gathering of NATO’s military authorities following the start of transition in Afghanistan and before the Defence Ministerial in Brussels (05-06 October 2011).
NATO’s Military Committee completed a two-day Conference in Seville (Spain) today. The Conference focused mainly on the operation in Afghanistan, the current transformational and operational challenges, lessons learned, and the role of the Alliance in the aftermath of the “Arab Spring”.
The event began on Friday with a welcome ceremony at Plaza de España where Admiral Di Paola, along with General Julio Rodriguez, Spanish Chief of Defence, presided over a military parade in the presence of the 28 NATO Chiefs of Defence (CHODS) and NATO’s two Strategic Commanders, Admiral James Stavridis (Supreme Allied Commander Europe, Operations – SACEUR) and General Stephane Abrial (Supreme Allied Commander, Transformation – SACT).
In the afternoon the Spanish Minister of Defence, Dr. Carme Chacón Piqueras, opened the conference by praising the CHODs and the two NATO’s Strategic Commanders for their commitment to NATO operations and highlighting the importance of moving forward NATO reform and transformation in light of the new Strategic Concept. The first session was dedicated to the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan where CHODs received briefings from SACEUR, the ISAF Commander (General Allen) and the NATO Senior Civilian Representative (Ambassador Gass), the latter two through a video conference from Afghanistan.
Topics of special interest were transition progress and a long-term look at NATO’s future involvement in Afghanistan beyond the transition phase. Enduring Partnership will provide sustained support to the country as it assumes full responsibility for its own security and rebuilds its security institutions through the transition process and beyond 2014.
On a regional perspective, and for long-term stability in Afghanistan, the Alliance is developing tailored cooperation with Pakistan, a key regional player. The Pakistani Chief of Army Staff, General Kayani, provided the CHODs with an insight into Pakistan’s perspective of how the strategic and operational partnership between ISAF, ANSF and the Pakistani Army is developing. A renewed effort to strengthen that cooperation will be instrumental to the stabilization of the entire region.
On the second day, CHODs examined the potential strategic implications for the Alliance security landscape of the “Arab Spring”, with particular reference to the core tasks of Crisis Management and Co-operative Security for the Alliance, as declared at the Lisbon Summit in 2010. Discussions included the status of NATO’s relationship with established partners such as the Mediterranean Dialogue and the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative, and new partnership options with relevant international actors. Two guest speakers were invited to stimulate the debate: Dr. Ahmed A. Saif, a leading Arab academic from the Saba Centre for Strategic Studies and Research in Yemen and Mr. Robert Fisk, a renowned Middle-East expert and journalist with the UK “Independent” newspaper.
The CHODs next turned their focus to current challenges in transformation and operations for the Alliance, taking a forward-looking perspective. The Supreme Allied Commander, Transformation, General Abrial, briefed on the results of his work to develop the Secretary General’s concept of SMART Defence in order to identify new ways of developing cost-effective capabilities. The aim is to promote and synchronize ideas and projects for multinational cooperation in capability development.
Still on transformational and operational challenges, SACEUR addressed the requirements that will allow the Alliance to face emerging security challenges. Then he gave an in-depth assessment of the operations in Kosovo, counter piracy and in Libya.
With regard to the latter operation, Admiral Di Paola said: “on behalf of the Military Committee I want to express my congratulations to Admiral Stavridis, General Bouchard and to all airmen, sailors and soldiers, for the high professionalism and the outstanding dedication they demonstrated during Operation Unified Protector. I also want to extend my deep appreciation to the CHODs of the Partner Countries whose support to this operation has been essential. All together we contributed to set the conditions for a political solution of the Libyan crisis”.
Thereafter, a session was devoted to lessons identified and learned from the Alliance’s ongoing operations, particularly those highlighted as a result of Operation Unified Protector in Libya. CHODs assessed how these lessons will be factored into future operations and gave their guidance on how the implementation of the New Command Structure should be adapted to take account of lessons learned. Outcomes of these sessions will be instrumental to the forthcoming October Defence Ministerial Meeting in Brussels.
This Military Committee meeting has represented the final appearance of the US CHOD, Admiral Mike Mullen and of the Estonian CHOD, General Ants Laaneots, who will retire after their present tenure.
The final session was dedicated to the election of the new Military Committee Chairman by the 28 CHODs. General Knud Bartels, Chief of the Danish Defence, was elected unanimously.
“It is a great honor for me to have been elected as the next Chairman of the Military Committee, and I thank my fellow Chiefs of Defence for the responsibility they have entrusted in me. Admiral Di Paola has done a tremendous job, and I look forward to continue his work when I take office next summer. For the time being, however, I will focus on my current position as Danish Chief of Defence” General Bartels said to the Military Committee.