Notes from Crisis Group/SACEUR meeting at SHAPE, 12 April 2005



Gareth Evans

Nicholas Whyte

General James L. Jones, SACEUR

Oliver Owcza, Special Adviser (German)

Ambassador George M. Staples, Political Adviser (US)


GE began by outlining Crisis Group’s work and history, and proposed to concentrate on Kosovo and Africa. He commented that KFOR had handled the Haradinaj handover in Kosovo well and appeared to have made headway in resolving the national caveats.


SACEUR commented that that process was still ongoing. On Hague co-operation, he noted that 100 of the 120 inductees were now in custody, not a bad score, but that Karadzic and Mladic remained the “sine qua non of success”. He anticipated that they were more likely to surrender than to be captured. He referred several times to his difficult relations with Carla del Ponte, “We’ve got a lot of scar tissue from her”. He feared that Serbia‘s recent increased co-operation with the tribunal might lead to political pressure increasing to relax ICTY conditionality on Belgrade, including from within Washington.


GE asked about readiness of KFOR in the event of future unrest or a Serbian incursion.


SACEUR replied that it was “inexcusable” that only 3000 of the 20000 troops in KFOR in March 2004 were usable for controlling civil unrest, and that too many countries had national caveats and restrictions. He had managed to improve the situation to the point where he reckons that 4500 of the current 18000 troops could be used in a crisis situation. Having large numbers of troops based in Kosovo is not much use if they cannot actually be helpful.


It was also inexcusable that KFOR had been taken by surprise in March 2004. KFOR needs to be transforms, reducing headquarters and logistics staff, and increasing the number of troops visible on the ground, gathering intelligence. NATO also needs to reform its own concept of how intelligence gathered by member states is used.


SACEUR was happier about the availability of reinforcements. Procedures have been changed so that he can deploy both the theatre and the operational reserve forces (one battalion each) immediately without having to seek permission from the North Atlantic Council.


He felt that a Serb incursion was a low risk, with the increasing prominence of Tadic and Davinic, and noted that co-operation with Serbia in the run-up to the Haradinaj transfer had been satisfactory. In the relationship with Serbia, he personally tends to play the “bad cop” role.


NW asked how the NATO/EU relationship was playing out in Bosnia.


SACEUR said that he had no real concerns, especially since the EU mission was effectively a NATO mission under a different flag.


GE asked about NATO’s willingness and readiness to act in Darfur.


SACEUR responded that as COMUSEUCOM he is responsible for US military activities in Africa in general, and he wants more of them.


NATO’s moribund Mediterranean dialogue has recently been revived, and Algeria and Israel have both expressed interest in participating in Operation Active Endeavour, the continuing security operation in the Mediterranean.


SACEUR had hoped to conduct a major NATO exercise in 2006 in Africa, s[pecifically in Mauritania. This was blocked by France (backed by Belgium, Luxembourg and usually Germany) who “see Africa as EU territory”. In the end the exercise will take place in the Cape Verde Islands which are at least off Africa.


As for Darfur, the problem is that the AU hasn’t asked and the UN hasn’t acted. Kofi Annan is understood to be positive but can’t move without the AU. Washington had shifted from being mildly inclined against a NATO intervention in Darfur to now being mildly inclined in favour, a shift driven by the State Department.


This doesn’t stop NATO from planning – procedures have been changed so that SACEUR can begin the planning process as long as the Secretary-General and Chair of the Military Committee are kept informed, rather than having to wait for instruction from the NAC. However there remains the problem of a big gap between political willingness to engage in such a mission and the availability of resources.


GE probed at the possible profile of such a mission – mere logistical support for AU activities, or a strong, proactive, civilian protection mandate? How would the AU be fitted into the chain of command?


SACEUR did not explore the options of what a mission might look like, but implied that so far he had only been looking at logistics support for humanitarian efforts; “Humanitarian action and force protection are the easiest, the farther you go the more difficult it gets.” The extent of involvement would depend on the political context. For all possible missions, force protection and security issue must be clearly defined and understood. Some countries (eg Germany) are unlikely to support a NATO mission that could lead to combat.


On chain of command, he felt that once the political decision to work with the AU had been made, a way to implement it would be found. However, there will be no NATO mission with a non-NATO commander. The chain of command will be a NATO chain of command.


It can happen very quickly – the Afghanistan operation did.


GE asked about the possibilities of NATO involvement in Cote d’Ivoire or DR Congo. Did SACEUR have any inhibitions about getting involved there?


SACEUR: None. He has spent two years trying to explain Africa to his “US masters”. “The proactive costs of engagement in Africa are much less than the reactive costs.” He would like the US to lead a coalition of donor countries to ensure human security and prevent the rise of radical fundamentalism. He pointed to the recent arrest of a known extremist, carried out by Africans in the pan-Sahel region with assistance from the West, as an example of success. The “Train and Equip” program from Georgia was now being exported to Niger and Chad.


GE asked SACEUR’s views on EU capabilities.


SACEUR noted that the EU was limited to classic peace-keeping, in a benign environment, for a farily short time. “Why call the battle groups battle groups, if thay can only throw food at each other?” Apart from the UK and France, few EU countries had really grasped military reform, but instead cut both numbers and budgets. “That’s not transformation!” Only the UK and France had consistently invested more than 2% in national security,a nd only they had really improved their military capability.


SACEUR closed the meeting by regretting that SHAPE had not been more proactive in seeking contact with the NGO community and committing to doing so more in future, both from Mons and from Stuttgart.

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    I bought David Mack’s “Dreams”, the second volume of Kabuki, on the spot the first time I saw it, because I liked the art so much. I’m not so much a fan of his style when he draws in monochrome, because I am not too good at parsing visuals and I find it quite hard to follow what’s happening in his black&white comics, but his work in colour ranks high among my favourite comics.

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