HomeDOCUMENTSMission Reports2003JANUARY 26 - FEBRUARY 1, 2003: VISIT TO WASHINGTON D.C., CALIFORNIA AND NEVADA
JANUARY 26 - FEBRUARY 1, 2003: VISIT TO WASHINGTON D.C., CALIFORNIA AND NEVADA
I. OVERVIEW *
1. Thirty-five members of the Defence and Security Committee visited the United States from January 28 to February 1 2003 to meet with US Members of Congress and develop a better understanding of the most important issues in American defence policy today. Led by the chair of the committee, Joel Hefley of the United States, the Committee met in Washington with officials at the Departments of Defense and State, the National Security Council, and non-governmental experts. In California and Nevada the committee toured the National Training Center at Ft. Irwin and Nellis Air Force Base.
2. The meetings in Washington were dominated by discussion of the potential military action against Iraq, the proposed NATO Response Force (NRF), and the apparent increasing tensions in the transatlantic alliance. The meetings in California and Nevada allowed the committee to see the pre-eminent training facilities for the United States Army and Air Force.
II. POTENTIAL MILITARY ACTION AGAINST IRAQ
3. The growing potential for military action against Iraq was a primary concern of the members and a topic of several briefings and discussions. Ian Brzezinski, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence for European Affairs, noted that NATO made an important statement at the Prague Summit supporting the United Nations Security Resolution 1441, and that NATO was united in its commitment to ensure Iraqi compliance with the resolution without restrictions. Mr Brzezinski was therefore puzzled by NATO's recent inability to support what he believed to be prudent measures to ensure Iraqi compliance and protect alliance members in the event of hostilities. He stated that the United States took note of the criticism that it ignored the European allies regarding Afghanistan and tried to bring Europe in on the planning process regarding Iraq. In his opinion, NATO's inability to "get consensus in planning for something it already supports" could only help Iraq and weaken the credibility of NATO.
4. Mark Esper, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Negotiations Policy, briefed the committee on the threat posed by Iraq and its connections to international terrorist organisations, including Al Qaida. He pointed to Iraq's unaccounted for weapons of mass destruction (WMD), recent intelligence reports, and the pace and scope of Iraq's dual-use chemical and biological facilities. Iraq produced large quantities of chemical and biological weapons prior to the Gulf War and there is no evidence that Iraq has destroyed its arsenal. Up to 3,200 tons of precursor chemicals and tons of biological growth media are unaccounted for. Recent intelligence reports point to Iraq's ongoing attempts to develop WMD. Iraq has attempted to get specialised magnets and sophisticated balancing equipment for uranium processing. Iraq is also suspected of developing mobile biological weapons laboratories mounted on trucks. Mr Esper also pointed to "solid intelligence reports of senior level contacts between Iraq and al-Qaida" and the chemical and biological weapons training of two al-Qaida operatives by Iraq in 2000.
5. Several Congressional analysts came to different conclusions about the threat posed by Iraq and the necessity of military action. They believe that the case for war is weak because Iraq is well contained by the combination of sanctions and inspections. One analyst questioned the reliability of intelligence reports on Iraq, noting that in instances where US intelligence has steered inspections- such as the aluminium tubes allegedly used in uranium processing- the intelligence ultimately proved to be unfounded.
6. The committee met with several analysts at the Brookings Institution who offered varying assessments of US policy toward Iraq and recommendations for further action. Ken Pollack made a case for why it will be necessary to take military action to prevent Iraq's acquisition of nuclear weapons. In his opinion, it is impossible to simply hold the current force in the Persian Gulf indefinitely, which means military action sooner or later. Mr Pollack indicated that President Bush had already decided on pursuing the military option and the question now is simply how many other states will join in the effort. Mr Pollack said that a powerful case can be made for war against Iraq, but that the Bush administration has not yet made it. He noted that it is important for Europe to participate in the military operation for its own sake, and that it is in Europe's interest to see that a second Security Council resolution is successful. Otherwise the Security Council will become less relevant and European influence of the reconstruction of Iraq will be marginalised.
7. Two other Brookings analysts, Ivo Daalder and Philip Gordon were more sceptical of the need for military intervention in Iraq. Both, however, noted the counterproductive tone of some European pronouncements on the subject that tend to bolster the "hard line" position within the Bush Administration. The Franco-German position that they will never agree to military action against Iraq tends to boost the hard line position that it is useless to try to persuade allies and invest the time and effort necessary for a diplomatic effort. They emphasized that there are serious and valid reasons for changing the Iraqi regime and serious arguments against military action, but as long as Europe focuses on the "blood for oil" refrain it prevents a serious discussion.
8. The committee members often questioned the premises of the presentations. Many pointed out the lack of an immediate threat from Iraq and disputed the conclusion that military action was necessary now. Some noted that counter-terrorism efforts would best be focused elsewhere given the tenuous link between Iraq and al-Qaida,. Others voiced concern that military intervention in Iraq would generate further terrorism, and that not enough has been done to resolve the Palestinian situation, which is seen as a main driver of Islamic terrorist activity.
9. One committee member stated that he arrived in Washington thinking that war was not inevitable, but left believing that in his words, "the train had already left the station". In this case, he believed it was important that Europe support the military action in Iraq in order to preserve the strength of the transatlantic alliance.
III. THE STATE OF THE TRANSATLANTIC ALLIANCE
10. Recent tensions over the question of Iraq, European and American disagreements over the scope and scale of multilateral treaties, and the general tone of political pronouncements on both sides of the Atlantic were a constant theme through the Washington meetings.
11. Steve Rademaker, Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, briefed the committee on the Bush administration's general approach to arms control and other treaties. Because the US Senate must ratify any treaty by a two-thirds majority, the current administration is reluctant to send any treaty to the Senate that is unlikely to garner the necessary level of support. Therefore, the administration decided to suspend negotiation on a number of treaties to which the Senate had already indicated its opposition, such as the Kyoto Protocol and the International Criminal Court. At the same time, the administration is moving forward with strategic arms reduction and the Moscow treaty signed after the US withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty will reduce American and Russian nuclear arsenals by two-thirds over the next decade.
12. Mr Rademaker also stated that many in the administration are confused by the perception in much of Europe that the United States acts in a unilateral manner without regard for its allies. In his view, Iraq is defying the will of the international community as expressed in numerous U. N. resolutions and the United States is offering the military forces necessary to enforce those resolutions. This is critical because without continued US military pressure, Iraq would not have allowed U. N. inspections to resume.
13. Ivo Daalder of the Brookings Institution noted that although this appears to be a particularly tense period in transatlantic relations, the alliance has been in near perpetual crisis since its inception. What is different about this particular time is that the alliance is still working through the structural changes of the post-Cold War period, and that because there is no existential threat to the alliance, we have "the luxury of indifference. " At the same time, Europe and the United States have different priorities. Europe is preoccupied with building a more united Europe and expanding the European Union into Central Europe. The United States is mainly concerned with defeating international terrorism and tyrannical states with the potential ability to use weapons of mass destruction. Europe is simply not as concerned with those issues and sees them as problems to be managed rather than as existential threats. Mr Daalder also said that despite the unilateral rhetoric of the Bush administration, it is far more multilateral in practice. In addition, if Europe develops more military capabilities the United States will be less able to ignore their potential contributions. This could lead to a new and potentially more equal relationship between Europe and the United States.
14. The committee also met with members of the US House of Representatives International Relations Committee. Several of the US congressmen voiced their objections to recent European criticisms of American foreign policy and in particular the personal comments addressed at President Bush. They felt that the controversial statements during the recent German elections were particularly damaging to the transatlantic relationship and hoped that sessions such as this would help to put the relationship back on a more sure footing. All noted however, that there is strong bipartisan support across the Congress for NATO and that current disputes should be viewed in the context of other problematic periods in the history of the alliance.
15. The committee met with Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Sen. Lugar stressed the importance of the transatlantic alliance in preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. He noted that on a recent trip to Russia, he placed an artillery shell capable of carrying chemical weapons in a suitcase to demonstrate the ease with which WMD could be smuggled out of the country. On a more general note, he said that NATO is popular in the Senate, but not universally so, and that controversies over non-security issues as genetically modified organisms, tended to impact on the way Europe and the transatlantic alliance is seen in Congress.
16. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage briefed the committee on a wide range of topics including Iraq, North Korea, and the India-Pakistan conflict. He noted that no decision had yet been made on military action against Iraq, although there would be a decision soon. He reported that the US has several open channels for communicating with North Korea and that the US prefers to discuss the North Korea situation in a multilateral setting. He emphasized that the conflict between India and Pakistan made Kashmir "one of the most dangerous places in the world" and that it is an area of particular concern for the United States despite the fact that other issues have pushed Kashmir out of the newspaper headlines for the time being.
IV. NATO RESPONSE FORCE AND COMMAND RESTRUCTURING
17. Mr . Brzezinski presented an outline of the American proposal for the NATO Response Force (NRF) endorsed to at the Prague Summit. The NRF will be composed of approximately 20,000 troops capable of deploying rapidly to high intensity conflicts. The American proposal envisions a land component composed of one brigade combat team with forced entry capability, an air component of 72 combat aircraft, and a maritime component composed of one carrier battle group, an amphibious task group and a surface action group of 6 to 10 combatants. Those forces would be commanded by an Combined Joint Task Force headquarters on a rotating basis among three groups so that one would always be ready to be deployed on short notice.
18. Mr Brzezinski emphasized that the American proposal is for a heavily European force supported by American "enablers," including refuelling aircraft, heavy airlift, ground surveillance, and sea lift. He also pointed to the new role for the former Atlantic Command located in Norfolk, Virginia. Renamed Allied Command Transformation, it will coordinate doctrine and training across militaries and assist in the transformation of allied forces from Cold War legacy forces to those more capable of addressing current security threats.
19. Committee members responded to several aspects of the American proposal. In particular, they noted that this force could conflict with the European Union's plans to develop the 60,000 headline goal force. Mr Brzezinski replied that there should be no conflict because the two forces are designed for different operations and that training for high intensity operations will help troops prepare for low intensity operations such as those contained in the list of Petersberg tasks.
20. Hans Binnendijk and Richard Kugler of the National Defense University elaborated on NRF proposal. Mr Binnendijk envisions that the NRF will usually be under a European command, and believes that European parliamentarians will have to take the lead in convincing their constituents that such a force is desirable and necessary. He estimated that the NRF will cost approximately $15 billion over five years, about one-third for training costs and two-thirds for procurement. Mr Kugler argued that the NRF provides the best way for NATO to remain relevant in the current defence and security environment. The Defence Capabilities Initiative lacked the necessary focus, but the Prague Capabilities Commitment in conjunction with the NRF will provide and effective framework for building a more capable European partner within NATO.
V. HOMELAND SECURITY
21. The committee met with Rosanne Hynes, Director for Liaison and Support for Homeland Security at the Department of Defense. Ms. Hynes emphasized that the United States is undertaking the largest reorganisation in the federal government since the creation of the Department of Defense more than 50 years ago. Despite the importance of homeland security in the national defence strategy, the Department of Defense will not have a lead role in homeland security. This is a function of laws that prevent the use of the military in the United States except in a national emergency. The military is relegated to a support role assisting local authorities and the newly created Department of Homeland Security. The exception to this is the National Guard, which is under the control of the state governors. The National Guard is playing an increasing role in homeland security, but there is considerable overlap between the Guard and local police, fire and emergency medical departments, all of which will be "first responders" in the event of a serious incident.
22. Michael O'Hanlon at the Brookings Institution also discussed homeland security issues with the committee. He noted that missile defence no longer garners as much attention in the United States as it did in previous years. The system is expected to be have some limited capability in 2004 and main question for the future is whether the programme will stay at approximately $7 billion per year or grow to be a $12 billion per year programme. Mr O'Hanlon outlined recent improvements in homeland security and pointed to some problematic areas. Airport and port security are better, as is the customs inspection process. However, the United States is focused on creating the bureaucracy of the Department of Homeland Security and needs to focus more on possible vulnerabilities and how to counter them.
VI. BASE VISITS: FT. IRWIN AND NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE
23. After three days of meetings in Washington D. C. , the committee flew to Ft. Irwin California, home of the National Training Center (NTC). The NTC is a huge facility of approximately 55 km2 , roughly the size of Kosovo. Brigades of 4000-5000 train at the facility throughout the year where they face an opposition force of 2600 stationed at Ft. Irwin. The opposition force imitates the tactics and strategy of the type of forces the United States military has encountered in the post-Cold War era. The battles are played out with specially designed lasers and sensors that can realistically simulate combat and allow the operations center to make a complete record of all movements and firing. This information is then used to brief after action reports through the command structure down to the platoon level.
24. At Nellis Air Force Base the committee visited the Air Warfare Center which trains American and allied pilots on a vast range covering much of the central part of the state of Nevada. Its primary mission is to train pilots for combined air-ground missions and it produces trainers who then teach others throughout the Air Force. Like Ft. Irwin, the Air Warfare Center can record the actions of the aircraft on the range and use the recording to brief individual pilots after each exercise. The committee was also briefed by the commandant of the Air Ground Operations School which integrates Air Force and Army personnel. The school trains tactical air control teams that guide precision munitions to their targets. These teams train for both high intensity and low intensity warfare, and are presented with realistic challenges. Committee members also received a briefing on the Predator unmanned aerial vehicle and inspected two of the vehicles.
25. The committee was impressed with both the scope and scale of the training efforts at Ft. Irwin and Nellis Air Force Base. The Air Warfare Center has trained many pilots from NATO countries although no non-US forces have trained at Ft. Irwin. This is because of the logistical problems and expense of moving a European brigade's combat equipment across the Atlantic and the continental United States.
* This Secretariat Report is presented for information only and does not necessarily represent the official view of the Assembly.