The former commander of NATO military forces has called for major changes in the way the alliance works, to require political leaders to provide the resources to carry out the missions they order. General John Craddock, who ended three years as Supreme Allied Commander two weeks ago, spoke to a military officers group in Washington Thursday.
General Craddock said NATO leaders need to limit their goals or provide the forces to achieve them. He said during his tenure as the top NATO military officer the alliance's top political body, the North Atlantic Council, would decide on a mission, unanimously as required, and approve his military plan. But he said that's where the problems would start.
"So the next step in that is we turn around and we have to generate the forces. So we hold a force-generation conference. And invariably what happens is the nations are unwilling to commit the resources to do what they collectively told us to do," he said.
The general said NATO took responsibility for security operations throughout Afghanistan three years ago with only half the capability it needed. He said a more recent effort to enhance the alliance's anti-piracy mission off the coast of Somalia resulted in the generation of absolutely no additional forces.
General Craddock said as NATO works on a new Strategic Concept, to be approved at its summit next year, the group's leaders need to also change the way the alliance goes about making that concept a reality.
"The new model has to be: if the military assumes the mission, then we will not start until such time as we're resourced to accomplish the task the council told us to do. And if we don't get those resources, we will offer alternatives for alternative courses of action, rather than start," he added.
General Craddock noted that most NATO members do not fully participate in its military missions. He divided the reluctant countries into two categories: those who can not do more and those who will not do more. He said the reluctance comes from a variety of causes, including the risk of casualties, the high cost of foreign military deployments, the unpopularity among Europeans of foreign military adventures and the political weakness of some European coalition governments. He said the alliance needs to make it easier for member states to send troops to its missions, partly by providing funding and having some military assets that are jointly owned.
The general said the alliance is facing some tough decisions about what it defines as a threat, and what the member countries are willing to do about those threats.
"NATO needs to decide where it may want to focus, how much it wants to focus, and do so recognizing the fact there are limitations with regard to military contributions. Seventy-three thousand of our NATO forces are out on current operations. Our force pool is a force puddle. So nations are going to have to contribute more or take a smaller appetite," said Craddock.
General Craddock said NATO has been locked in a conflict between its "ambition" and its members' "political will," and those conflicting factors must be brought into alignment.