Center for Strategic Decision Research


Allied Command Operations

General Rainer Schuwirth
Chief of Staff,
Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe


In my talk I will address several subjects from the point of view of SHAPE, which in the new command structure is also called Allied Command Operations, or ACO. Allied Command Operations is the military strategic-level headquarters that is responsible for planning and conducting all NATO-led operations on the military side under the political guidance and military overview of the Military Committee and the North Atlantic Council in Brussels. After I cover my topics I will draw some conclusions and then turn things over to my friend Gerhard Back, who will speak in more detail about the current NATO operation and his perspective on Afghanistan. From the point of view of Allied Command Operations, I want to say that we are cooperating closely with our colleagues on the other side of the Atlantic, particularly in the areas of capability development and policy development, but I will focus solely on ACO/SHAPE business. 


Let me very briefly go through the operations that we are responsible for with our current total of some 30,000 soldiers from both NATO member-nations and Partner countries. KFOR in Kosovo has already been mentioned—an operation in which NATO countries are cooperating with the United Nations and other international organizations to provide a safe and secure environment that was rather unstable in the spring of 2004. While the level of violence has calmed down now considerably, the potential for unrest throughout the entire Balkan region exists if some of the bad guys decide to create unrest—they have the networks and the capabilities to do it. However, we have developed a plan for KFOR that, once approved, will allow us to restructure the current force. In particular we will improve the tooth-to-tail ratio so that we can do away with an overflow of national support elements and use the remaining force in a more flexible but nevertheless efficient way, even more efficient—although I am always hesitant to use comparatives—than what we are doing right now. 

Operations in the Balkans 

It should not be forgotten that NATO continues to operate in the Balkans with three admittedly small headquarters: One in Skopje, in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia; one in Tirana, in Albania; and one in Sarajevo, in Bosnia-Herzegovina. All act as advisors in the countries in which they are located, assisting with ongoing security sector reform efforts; their support is greatly appreciated by those they are helping. 

As far as Operation Active Endeavor in the Mediterranean is concerned, its definite usefulness has already been mentioned, and to me it is particularly important because it is the only Article 5 operation. This collective defense operation will in due course have Russian participation and may also have Ukrainian, Algerian, and Israeli participation, as well as participation by the other countries of the Mediterranean Dialogue. Preparation for this participation is continuing to move forward. 

Three pillars are involved in the NATO training mission in Iraq: In-country training, currently in the Green Zone in Baghdad and in Ar Rustamiyah, where the Iraqi Training Education and Doctrine Command is being established with the assistance of the Alliance; out-of-country training at the NATO school in Oberammergau and the NATO Defense College in Rome; and equipment donation facilitation, which we are working on together with our colleagues at Allied Command Transformation in what we call the NATO Training and Equipment Coordination Group, or NTEC; as facilitators we receive either offers by NATO nations regarding equipment or training slots in their national training establishments, which we then pass on to the appropriate people in the Iraqi government. Many equipment donations have been made from several NATO nations, including tens or thousands of small arms and millions of rounds of ammunition. 

This situation is the first instance, at least in my experience, in which we have a wonderful mix of budgets for NATO command funding: A mix of the traditional “costs lie where they fall” money, in which nations pay for what they are providing; common funding provided by NATO nations; and the so-called trust funds, the money that NATO nations pay on a voluntary basis for such things as assisting the transport of Iraqi students or the transport of equipment, as John Koenig mentioned. 
We should  not forget that NATO is engaged in providing air surveillance to the three Baltic States and Slovenia, assisting them in maintaining their air sovereignty, and is about to become engaged in the upcoming NATO mission in Darfur.  

We are also strongly supporting the European Union with the operation they have been conducting in Bosnia-Herzegovina since autumn of 2004. The headquarters for this operation is actually at SHAPE in Mons, and the Deputy SACEUR is the EU operation commander. Through this operation we provide assets and capabilities, particularly for Command and Control to support the mission and draw on the experience we gained in 2003 through our work with Operation Concordia, in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the first EU-led military operation that had recourse to NATO assets and capabilities. From our point of view the cooperative effort runs extremely well, both at SHAPE, at the EU operational headquarters and its counterparts in Brussels, and particularly on the ground. 

Regarding these missions let me say that there have been some incorrect press reports from time to time. The first one reported that we had a fight with our colleagues in the European Union, but to my knowledge we never did; right from the beginning, we have stayed in touch and informed each other and we are continuing to coordinate action. The second point reported an inaccurate understanding regarding Darfur. The responsibility for any peacekeeping operation in Darfur rests with the African Union. It is also subject to agreement with the Sudanese government, which is not easy to ascertain. What NATO and the European Union are really doing is offering staff support to the African Union, providing support to coordinate air transport offers, and assisting them in planning proper packages for air transport of those African forces that have been offered to increase the African Union mission. We are offering staff support, officers for the African Union Headquarters in Addis Ababa, and doing some capacity building, as we call it, trying to increase the level of professionalism of African Union staff officers so that their mission that is to be reinforced later in the summer is properly planned and properly conducted. We will not put forces on the ground—this has been made clear by the African Union. But I believe that the international community should finally take an interest in assisting the African countries to stabilize this particular region and to bring some hope for the future of the people who are struck there. 


I would also like to briefly mention, because this is part of our operational role, our support of what we call high-visibility events. A particularly significant event in 2004 was our support of the Greek authorities, providing security and over-site surveillance during the course of the summer Olympic Games. 

Another important part of our operational role is building up the NATO Response Force, a force that reached initial operational capability in fall of 2004 and that should reach its full operational capability in summer of 2006. At that time it should comprise approximately 25,000 soldiers from all services and branches, and, should it be required, the force would be mission tailored. As the forces rotate, the NRF will include approximately 25,000 well-trained, well-validated soldiers from NATO nations, another 25,000 soldiers will be preparing for the next standby period and 25,000 soldiers will just have finished their standby period. 

This means that by the end of the summer of 2006 some 75,000 Alliance soldiers will be engaged in preparing the NATO Response Force, standing by for the NATO Response Force, or standing down from the NATO Response Force. At that point, if everything goes right and if the nations have invested in the right way, the NATO Response Force will be a very important transformational tool. 

However, the force would not be employed only for deploying all 25,000 soldiers, with all capabilities and assets, but would be tailored to whatever was needed, be it humanitarian assistance, peacekeeping, or initial entry into a hostile environment. We have finally gotten approval by the North Atlantic Council for a Live Exercise, which will be conducted in June of 2006 in Cape Verde. The exercise will validate the force’s full capability.  

It goes without saying that we need to support the integrated NATO headquarters with professional staff that are involved in this work. Currently the NATO Command Structure is undergoing another restructuring with a significant cut-down of headquarters. 


Regarding our operational role let me mention the comprehensive cooperative efforts we are participating in. We run interoperability programs in the framework of Partnership for Peace, with Russia and Ukraine, and we have partners in NATO-led operations; and we are increasing cooperation with the Mediterranean Dialogue countries and will do so soon with the ICI countries of the Gulf region. In total, we make many successful contributions to security and peace. 


On the other side, there are several challenges. We all know that the expeditionary operations require deployment and sustainability, but I do not want to address these points in depth because everyone knows exactly what the particular challenges are. Instead I’m just going to touch on a couple of areas where we continue to see room for improvement. 

Crisis Management and Crisis Prevention 

The first one is crisis management and crisis prevention, and I entirely share George Joulwan’s point that all of our international organizations must become better at crisis prevention aiming at less crisis reaction, which is what we have done so far when it’s almost too late. We need better information; we know that there is sufficient information and intelligence around, but we are suffering because we do not yet have the proper fusion mechanisms needed and individual nations are not willing enough to make their information available to multinational organizations, be it NATO or the EU. 

There are, however, some useful projects on track. One is a project that has been initially sponsored by the U.S. to build a NATO intelligence fusion cell. We also have a good experiment running in Naples that fuses civilian and military intelligence, which I believe is the way forward. We hope that in due time these efforts and others will also be supported by proper automatic data processing and other technologies that are necessary. 


A second area I’d like to talk about is transformation; from SHAPE’ s point of view transformation is lacking at NATO Headquarters in Brussels. The number of committees and working groups has not decreased since the Cold War, in fact, quite the opposite is true: The number of working groups may even have increased and this is not up to modern, speedy crisis-reaction demands. When we put the elements of the NATO Response Force on five-day standby notice there is absolutely no guarantee that the needed political decisions will be made in that time frame; in fact, you may wonder why you put the force on five days’ notice to move. So it goes without saying that improvement is required. Happily, the Secretary General has instructed a high-level working group to look into the issue and we hope there will be positive results. 

We also need appropriate professional staffs, including those with proper language skills. It may be interesting for you to know that even in the significantly reduced NATO Command Structure, we deactivated 16 integrated headquarters during 2004, none of the headquarters is filled above 85% and many of them are filled below 70%, so we are suffering from reduced production capability, not only in terms of paper but also in the quality required to do the job. 

Another problem is that the funding rules are outdated—they still follow the “costs lie where they fall” principle. Taking the NATO Response Force as an example, the composition changes every half-year, because in that way individual nations provide their packages to the force. If the force is used at any time, those countries that currently sit on it pay the majority of the costs even though the force is employed and deployed in the interest of the entire Alliance. To work on this issue, we have put some initiatives forward in Brussels, and discussions are now ongoing concerning the widening of the common funding. 

The cost factor is one of the reasons we have a lot of national restrictions. If a nation provides helicopters and allows these helicopters to fly everywhere, that nation has to pay for it, which has a negative effect. I won’t expand on ISAF examples, because Gerhard Back will discuss them, but suffice it to say for such reasons there is also a lot of duplication of capabilities and more multinational approaches would help with the problem. 

One of the continuing problems is overall capabilities, particularly for expeditionary forces. Most important shortfalls are in the area of proper command and control systems, particularly those that are interoperable and standardized and in deployability assets, for both the NATO Response Force and other forces, or force protection and certain areas of force effectiveness; not too much has, but numerous projects are being developed and will improve the situation. 


Finally, I am convinced that there is good news. NATO is vivid and NATO has been successful and efficient in its operations. However, we still must work to do better and this remains the challenge for all of us. 




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