Turkey Postured to Defeat ISIL Without NATO Help
By Sarah Sicard
Despite continued threats to its border with Syria, Turkey is capable of handling pressure from the conflict without major NATO support, an Army official said Oct.16.
"I think that their assessment is they're postured if an actual conventional force from Syria, ISIL, comes into Turkey. They're postured to defeat it," Maj. Gen. Walter Piatt, deputy commanding general of U.S. Army Europe, said at a round table discussion with reporters.
"They have seen an enormous amount of refugees come over their border," he added. "This is not something that's new. They’ve seen this before and they are very good at managing this, understanding the threat, understanding the border."
Though NATO forces are present in Turkey, Piatt confirmed that this does not indicate heightened involvement from the alliance.
He added: "There are many challenges when you deal with an alliance. We’re dealing with sovereign nations here."
As such, with the strengthening of the allies in NATO, the U.S. role of acting as a unilateral force in Europe is coming to a close, he said. This comes as part of the continued U.S. drawdown, wherein the Army in Europe will eventually rely heavily on the alliance as an interoperable, multilateral force.
By 2018 or 2019, the U.S. troop count will be drop from 31,000 to 28,000 — an ideal number, according to Piatt. Having more than that is unnecessary.
"The posture we have now is a result of our success. The commitment we had to the nations during the Cold War, it worked," he said. The Balkans' borders are open, and Eastern Europe's economy is moving in the right direction, he noted. Those are examples of NATO's success.
Though there are still many crises in the region, the force reduction "is what peace looks like," he said. "It's natural. We can downsize force and we can increase the alliance to contribute to that force gap."
Piatt added that the drawdown has been a catalyst, forcing the alliance to reach the heightened capacity needed to maintain security. "We need to be a contributing member to this alliance, and we can create a smart defense, if we do this correctly."
One area where NATO has made the most significant strides is that of technical communications and intelligence. "Each country has different capabilities," he said.
The most important aspect of collecting information has been through human intelligence. The strength of intelligence gathering is best when it comes from people who know the environment. Local governments and law enforcement have played a major role in increasing intel-sharing among allies, he said.
In an era of fiscal austerity, NATO should be considered the primary source of troop strength in the region rather than operations that rely solely on U.S. armed forces, he said.
"If your solution is to command more money and more people, then you probably haven't thought through the problem well enough, because the alliance is right there," he added.
The facilities and training programs that have been built up to provide support to the alliance in the wake of U.S. personnel reduction will allow for budget consolidation and more streamlined future operations, he said.
The greatest concern moving forward is continuing to sustain joint strategies with NATO allies. After ongoing multinational efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq over the last decade, the foundation for cooperation is strong and needs to be maintained, he said.