View Full Version : NATO Rolls Out New Strike Force

22 Nov 03,, 05:57
NATO Rolls Out New Strike Force
Associated Press
November 21, 2003

DOGANBEY, Turkey - NATO on Thursday rolled out its new strike force designed to spearhead the transformation of the Cold War alliance into a 21st century peacemaker.

War games involving air, sea and land forces from 11 nations mark the debut for the NATO Response Force which brings together elite troops from around the alliance into a single unit to tackle threats from terrorists, rogue states or regional crises.

French paratroopers, Spanish marines, Turkish special forces and German ground-attack planes will team up to deal with a fictional threat to U.N. personnel and civilians from terrorists and hostile soldiers on the coast close to this Aegean Sea city.

The exercise aims to show off the potential of the prototype response force, which should be fully operational in 2006 with a strength of 20,000.

NATO's military commander, U.S. Marine Gen. James L. Jones, believes setting up the new force is one of the most important decisions in the 54-year history of the alliance.

"It marks an important recognition on the part of the alliance that the international security environment has changed dramatically," said U.S. Marine Gen. James L. Jones, NATO's supreme military commander.

Jones said the force, combined with other technological and institutional changes at NATO "will ensure the relevance of the alliance in the 21st Century and will provide a credible means to face and defeat the threat than now faces all our peoples."

In times of crisis, the force should be ready to deploy within five days for missions ranging from evacuations and peacekeeping to counterterrorism or high-intensity combat.

Currently, it comprises about 9,000 soldiers, sailors and aviators run out of NATO's northern command based in the southern Netherlands.

About 1,000 will participate in the Turkish exercise that involves an amphibious landing, helicopter raids and the intervention of Czech specialist troops who provide defenses against chemical, biological or nuclear attacks.

Spain is the biggest contributor to the prototype force with 2,200, plus ships, aircraft and helicopters. It is followed by France with 1,700 and Germany at 1,100.

The United States is contributing 300 troops plus a ship and aircraft, but they are not participating in the exercise.

Nations will offer units on rotations of around six months, with the next change of command and expansion of the force scheduled for July.

Although proud of their speed in setting up the force - just 14 months since Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld first suggested it - NATO nations still have to resolve doubts that its effectiveness could be weakened by political differences like those that divided the alliance over Iraq.