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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

U.S. Defense Strategy Review and Europe

Philip H. Gordon
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs

Julianne Smith, Office of the Secretary of Defense Principal Director for Europe and NATO
Washington, DC
January 9, 2012


12:00 P.M., EST


MODERATOR: Good afternoon. Welcome, and thank you for attending the Foreign Press Center’s briefing regarding the U.S. Defense Strategy Review and Europe. At this time, I would also like to welcome our colleagues joining us via videoconference from the New York Foreign Press Center.

This afternoon, we’re joined by Department of State Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Philip Gordon and Office of the Secretary of Defense Principal Director and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Europe and NATO Policy Julianne Smith.

We will begin today with opening remarks from both Assistant Secretary Gordon and Deputy Assistant Secretary Smith. Following those remarks, we will begin our question-and-answer period. During the question-and-answer period, please wait to be called on, and wait until you’ve been given a microphone before speaking. Also, please state your name and your media organization before asking your question.

Thank you very much for your cooperation. And now I’d like to invite Assistant Secretary Gordon to the microphone. Thanks.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: Thanks, Belinda, and thank you all for coming. Let me just make a brief opening statement before I turn it over to Julie and then look forward to your questions.

As you all know, last Thursday the President went over to the Pentagon to roll out new strategic guidance on American defense in the 21st century. As he and Secretary Panetta outlined at the Pentagon, the new guidance is designed to clarify our strategic interests in a world after 10 years of war and robust defense spending and in a challenging fiscal climate. As we transition away from the wars of the past decade, we want to be sure that our military is able to meet all of the new strategic challenges that we face. And in a minute, Julie Smith from the Pentagon will talk more about that global context. What I would like to do is focus particularly on the implications of this new strategic guidance for our cooperation with our European allies and partners.

The transatlantic relationship remains an essential source of stability in an unpredictable world, and Europe is our principal partner in promoting global and economic security. And so the strategy outlined last week reaffirms our commitment to European security and will ensure our continued ability to meet our Article 5 commitments, and also to enhance our cooperation in interoperability with our European partners on global challenges. If you look around the world and see where America is operating globally, you will see in so many cases how closely and importantly we work with our European allies and partners.

We have worked together on challenges around the world, most recently in Libya, ongoing in Afghanistan, but also Kosovo and the Balkans, and the Horn of Africa. Diplomatically, of course, we work very closely with our European partners on countering the proliferation of ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction and to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. We’re also working very closely together to support economic and political transition in the Middle East and North Africa, and to increase pressure on the Assad regime in Syria to meet its commitments to refrain from violence against its own people.

Let me say a brief word about NATO. As you also know, at the 2010 NATO Summit in Lisbon, allies agreed on a new strategic concept aimed at preparing the alliance to meet 21st century security challenges. And this May, President Obama looks forward to hosting NATO allies in Chicago to review the considerable progress we’ve made so far. The schedule for the Chicago summit has yet to be finalized, but I think you can expect, at a minimum, the alliance to focus on three key priorities: the transition in Afghanistan, NATO’s capabilities, and its partnerships.

Just briefly on each of those, on Afghanistan, with our allies and ISAF partners, we’ll take stock of the transition process, defining a new phase of transition when ISAF’s mission will shift from combat to advising and assisting Afghan national security forces. Heads of state and government will also agree a vision for NATO’s post-2014 role in Afghanistan, something that was discussed recently at the Bonn ministerial.

On capabilities, allies will work together to ensure that NATO has the full range of capabilities it needs to meet the challenges we face even as all allies continue to face challenging budgetary environments. In that regard, we strongly support NATO Secretary General Rasmussen’s efforts to focus on smart defense and spending our rare defense dollars and euros as efficiently as possible.

Finally, NATO allies will continue our efforts to strengthen relations with partners around the world to ensure that the alliance remains a forum for dialogue and effective cooperation and meeting shared security concerns. Again, I point you to the recent experience in Libya, where it wasn’t just NATO allies but, critically, partners from the region and elsewhere coming together to conduct an effective military operation.

Lastly, and specifically on Europe, the defense strategy guidance the President announced on Thursday is an important step in moving us towards those goals for Chicago and also commits us to a number of things that we have already made clear we’re doing in terms of European defense I think it’s important for people to be aware of. We will continue with our deployment of missile defenses, the European Phased Adaptive Approach. And this will, of course, include putting assets in Poland and Romania, a radar in Turkey, and the home porting of missile defense-capable Aegis destroyers in Spain. All of this is part of the European Phased Adaptive Approach to missile defense, but importantly, it’s another robust commitment to an American presence in Europe in cooperation with our European partners on the true challenges that we face in the 21st century.

We’ll also be taking steps to enhance the responsiveness of special operations forces in the region. And we’re moving forward with plans to establish an aviation detachment in Poland to enhance training opportunities for allies and partners in the region.

So all of these things, I think help reinforce the two core messages where Europe is concerned from the defense strategy, which is that we are absolutely committed to maintaining the capabilities we need for Article 5, and we’re absolutely committed not just to maintaining but to enhancing our ability to partner with Europeans on global security missions.

Thank you, and let me ask Julie to make some remarks, and then we’ll both look forward to taking your questions.

MS. SMITH: Thank you, Phil. Let me just say a few words about why this strategy is being conducted now. Many of you are familiar with the fact that the Defense Department conducts the Quadrennial Defense Review, another strategic document that guides our work at DOD. And this is out of cycle. The next QDR will be in about two years. We wanted to undertake this strategic review at this juncture, as Phil mentioned, because we do, in fact, feel that we’re at a pivotal moment. We have just ended our mission in Iraq, we are transitioning through our mission in Afghanistan, and obviously we face unprecedented budgetary challenges here at home.

In terms of the actual goals of the strategy as it was outlined when we set to work on this document, there were four goals listed by the team up front. First and foremost, we want to ensure that we can maintain the best military in the world. It is, in fact, true that the budget pressures will, in fact, require a smaller force. But we will ensure that this force will remain properly equipped, trained, and postured to succeed in a wide range of missions.

The second goal was to avoid hollowing out the force. The third, balance any reductions and ensure that they are taken strategically. And obviously, this document will guide us in that respect as we move towards budgetary decisions. And last but not least, keep faith with our all-volunteer force, and by this I mean ensure that the force is – long-term viability is guaranteed. We will also ensure that as we reduce the size of the force, we will do so in ways that respect the sacrifices that so many in uniform have made. And last but not least, provide our forces with the benefits that all of them have earned.

Now, the strategy places heavy emphasis on ensuring and maintaining U.S. global leadership, clearly a pillar – a longstanding pillar in our foreign and defense policies. When we talk about sustaining that leadership in the future, we mean that we must require maintaining and strengthening our robust network of international relationships and capabilities. And here, we translate that into tailoring our global defense posture to ensure that it has the right mix of capabilities in the right places.

And there are four different points to that specific evolving force posture that I want to mention here today. First and foremost, as you’ve heard by Secretary Panetta and others, we will be rebalancing towards the Asia Pacific. Secondly, we will maintain and adapt our presence in the Middle East. Third, we will adapt the U.S. posture in Europe to reflect the evolving strategic landscape. And last but not least, we will build our partnership capacity.

I wanted to say just a word about the two-war construct. I know this has come up in a lot of the press engagements over the last couple of days, and we’ve had a number of questions on this particular concept. The construct itself is something that we will be maintaining. But what’s different is that we are altering our approach to the two-war concept or construct. We will not be sizing our forces for two overlapping large-scale ground-intensive combat operations. Instead, if we find ourselves engaged in a major combat operation in one theater, we will focus on spoiling the objectives of an aggressor elsewhere. This will allow us to reduce the size of the force but at the same time take advantage of a whole range of new concepts of operation in fields such as space, cyber, special ops, and precision strikes.

Last but not least, let me just say in terms of next steps, I know folks are very interested in the specifics. The President will be submitting his budget on February 6, and that time, obviously, we’ll be able to outline exactly how this strategy will be executed from a budget perspective.

Thank you.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much. At this time, we will take questions. In the back, please.

QUESTION: Zoltan Mikes, World Business Press Online, Slovakia. My question is: I understand that from your point of view, you are not able to a point to take decisions and new strategic, but from of Europe, the big dropoff (ph) of troops will – it does not – will it not mean that Europe in the phase when it has its own very big budgetary problems, they’ll commit less troops, less military supplies, and will be not able to make the alliance to work or – doesn’t – don’t you fear the effectivity (ph) of the NATO because of your approach at this particular time?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: One of the reasons I mentioned the upcoming NATO summit and Secretary General’s Smart Defense initiative is precisely because we in the United States and our European partners are facing similar fiscal challenges. Everybody knows that belt tightening is required and budgets are being cut, but at the same time, we and they are equally committed to making sure that NATO can deliver on its commitments, stand by Article 5, and undertake the missions globally that we need. And it is important to do that, one, together through transparency and consultation, and I can tell you there has been quite a lot of that, but also to find efficiencies where we can, and that’s one of the things that the President is particularly focused on, making sure that NATO can operate as efficiently as possible, drawing on collective and common assets. I think you saw that in the Libya operation when the United States didn’t want to be responsible for this critical mission alone. It wanted partners and allies. It wanted to be able to use not just NATO partners but other partners in the region. It wanted to be able to use common assets and a command and control system that was already in place, and that’s why we turned to NATO. And I think it demonstrated that that allows all of us to meet our security needs in a more cost effective manner, and we’ll be looking to other ways that we can do that in a NATO context.

MS. SMITH: I would just add, as Phil mentioned earlier, U.S. commitment to NATO remains firm, and we will ensure that we can meet all of our Article 5 commitments. But I think the budget cuts that we’re seeing on the other side of the Atlantic and the budget cuts that we will be facing here when it comes to defense will put added pressure on all of us collectively to come up with some innovative ideas under the rubric of Smart Defense, where we’ll have to look at pooling, sharing multinational procurement, and come up with some innovative approaches on doing more with less in some ways.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: Just, if I might, to give you a couple of examples, and I mentioned the Libya operation, all NATO allies were able to take advantage of AWACS, which is something that NATO allies have common funding of, and there’s a fleet of AWACS at the disposal of the alliance so that every single ally doesn’t have to buy its own. There’s a program en route that the United States strongly supports on alliance ground surveillance, which would help our intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance efforts, and we believe that putting our assets together and providing this capability for the alliance would be another way in which we can economize. There’s an operation underway on Baltic air policing, where different allies help ensure the protection of air space of Baltic states so that every single ally doesn’t have to spend its money on an advanced air force. These are the types of things in the modern world that we’ll be looking at and supporting to make sure that NATO collectively is defended as cost-efficiently as possible.

MODERATOR: Great. We actually have one question in New York. We’ll take that at this time.

QUESTION: May I ask you a question from New York? Glauco Maggi for La Stampa. My question is for Italy. We are interested in knowing the prospective of this change. What will happen for Aviano? We are now just reinforcing the bases in the other presence of (inaudible) Americans’ soldiers in Naples, in Sigonella, and the other bases.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: Well, again, let me begin. As I said, the defense strategy doesn’t get into specific details. That was not the point of what was rolled out last week, to make specific decisions about equipments, bases, forces in different places. There is other work underway, and as time goes on, there will be more to say about specifics. What I think can clearly be said is that Italy’s strategic importance to this alliance and to the United States is absolute and well recognized here. Aviano remains critical to NATO operations. NATO – Naples, where you have a critical NATO command. I referred to the Libya operation. It couldn’t have been done without Italy’s strategic cooperation and without the alliance presence in Italy. So again, without getting into any specific details about bases or forces or issues that haven’t fully been addressed in last week’s announcement, I think it’s absolutely safe to say that we value Italy’s enormous contributions, and they will go on in the future.

MODERATOR: Okay. All right, we’ll take a question from this side right here. One moment for the microphone.

QUESTION: How will the new defense strategy affect the presence of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in Europe?

MODERATOR: And can we get your name and your organization?

QUESTION: Sorry. Jon Harper with the Asahi Shimbun. It’s a Japanese paper.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: I would say it won’t, specifically. Again, just to repeat, the Strategy Review didn’t get into issues of specific deployments. What we’ve said about tactical nuclear weapons in Europe is clear, and there hasn’t been any change. The United States believes that NATO will and should remain a nuclear alliance so long as nuclear weapons exist in the world. And we have drawn attention on a number of occasions to the issue of nonstrategic or tactical nuclear weapons in Europe is to a significant degree the numbers. A number of our allies have raised the same issue, the numbers of tactical nuclear weapons, nonstrategic, that Russia has, and those should be the part of any discussion moving forward when it comes to nonstrategic weapons.

MODERATOR: All right. We have another question in New York. We’ll just go to New York at this time.

QUESTION: Hi. This is Halil Mula with RTV-21, Kosovo National Television. There are voices that U.S. soldiers will withdraw from Kosovo during this year, the year of 2012. This really got concerned people in Kosovo, having in mind what’s going on in the north, that is still blocked – build blockades with barricades, no free movement, a referendum being prepared from illegal structures. What will exactly happen?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: Let me say there’s no basis for speculation about U.S. or NATO soldiers being withdrawn from Kosovo this year. Particularly given some of the tensions we’ve seen in recent weeks and months, now would hardly be the time to do that. And I believe that I’m not just speaking for the United States but for NATO allies as well. The alliance together took the decision recently not to move past what we call Gate 2, the current number of NATO soldiers in Kosovo, which is close to some 7,000, including nearly a thousand Americans, and that was because the judgment was made that, given the importance of the dialogue going on between Serbia and Kosovo and given the security situation, it would not be appropriate to have further withdrawals.

So I think that speculation is misplaced. It’s certainly not something that was addressed in the defense review. And the presence of NATO forces in Kosovo will be driven by conditions on the ground and will not be affected by last week’s announcement.

MODERATOR: Great. Thank you.

Brian, please.

QUESTION: I’m Brian Beary from Europolitics. More of a point of information, what’s the current count for total U.S. military personnel in Europe? Where are they? And I know that you can’t go into specifics about after the plan, but is there any ballpark figure about what the reductions will be? Will it be a quarter? A third? Is it – can you say anything about that?

MS. SMITH: Unfortunately, we’re not going to be able to get into the details about any reductions that could be forthcoming. Those will be, obviously, tied to the budgetary decisions. And the exact numbers and where they’re located in Europe, I’d be happy to get back to you with that detail.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: What I would add, when you ask about specific numbers, keep in mind that a number of the permanently deployed U.S. soldiers in Europe for the past eight to ten years have been deployed in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And so I think – the way to think about this is not – we’re not talking about withdrawals from Europe. The question is really troops going back to Europe and how many of the permanently stationed ones will be there. So I don’t – I think just the notion of – that we’re talking about or looking at or counting withdrawals is misplaced. And the reason it’s hard to give you a number is the reason I said. There has – there are the troops that are permanently deployed in Europe, where their home base is, but for the past decade they have been significantly fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that we expect in the coming years will no longer be the case.

MS. SMITH: Yeah. So just to be clear, there’s four brigade combat teams dedicated and home-based in Europe, but as Phil pointed out, not a majority but a significant portion of those troops have been deployed elsewhere. More or less for the last 10 years, we’ve had two of the brigade combat teams in Afghanistan. So again, the question is: Where do they return to?

MODERATOR: We’ll go on this side, right here on the end. Right. Right – or with the glasses right here. Yeah.

QUESTION: Sabine Muscat, Financial Times, Deutschland. I’d like to come back to the first question, if I may, on future Smart Defense approaches. And I was wondering if – do you think the U.S. and the European partners are moving with the same speed on that, on finding these new approaches? For example, talking about alliance ground surveillance, what are you doing to get the countries that have not yet signed up to these initiatives to join them? Thank you.

MS. SMITH: Well, there’s a whole array of Smart Defense initiatives that, frankly, have been put in place years ago. There are new Smart Defense initiatives that are being considered for the May summit in Chicago. The great thing about Smart Defense is not all allies have to sign up for it. You can construct a Smart Defense initiative; Phil mentioned three of them, but there are dozens of them. Bilaterally, the UK-France treaty that they launched on defense matters is one example. You could have Nordic-Baltic cooperation as another, where there’s a whole host of countries joining forces on how to enhance their defense cooperation.

Obviously, depending on where you sit in Europe and the United States, we have different views on what’s required, where we can get the biggest bang for our euro or our dollar or another currency, and what makes sense for us in terms of the threats that are the top of our list. The Nordics and the Baltics view things obviously in a collective light when they – when it comes to their security. But all of these can carry the NATO brand and the NATO stamp, and the hope is that moving towards the Chicago summit, we’ll be able to package a collection of new Smart Defense initiatives that can be presented and endorsed by heads of state and government.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: Specifically on the alliance ground surveillance that you raise, I can just say there is intense diplomacy going on on that subject right now, to figure out precisely how it would work. And you’re right; of course you can’t expect every single ally to have every – exactly the same view about the utility of different programs. That’s why we have an alliance, and that’s why the diplomacy needs to take place.

Our point is that it’s a good example of how everyone can benefit from something. In that case, it may not be the procurement countries, the countries that actually procure the assets that would participate in AGS. It might not be every member of the alliance, but if a way can be found that it can be put to alliance use and everybody participates in agreed way, it’s something whereby every member of the alliance for an allied operation gets the benefit from this very badly needed intelligence and surveillance without every single ally having to buy drones and radar stations and the infrastructure that’s necessary to use it. That’s why it’s smart, and that’s just the type of thing that we’re going to have to be doing more of moving forward.

MODERATOR: Okay. Great. Right here, please.

QUESTION: Thank you. Hi. I understand you will not get into details about the specific countries, but in this Strategic Review, you are mentioning about two specific countries. One in China and the other one is Iran, and your priorities will be obviously the Pacific and Middle East, as you mentioned in the review. My question is regarding Turkey. In this – in terms of this Smart Defense approach and China and Iran threats, what is the role of Turkey in this big picture? And if it’s possible, what will be the strategic importance of (inaudible) airbase, without the technical details about the U.S. presence in the base?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: Well, again, once again, the review didn’t get into specifics on different airbases in different countries. That wasn’t the point. But I can say Turkey remains a critical NATO ally. It’s no secret to anybody that there remain threats and challenges throughout the region, and the American defense partnership with Turkey bilaterally and as a NATO ally is going to remain critical. I think you – the thrust of the review, you can’t any other way but to understand that Turkey will remain a hugely critical ally for the United States.

MODERATOR: We’ll go right there.

QUESTION: Thank you. My name is Andrei Surzhanskiy. I’m with Itar-TASS news agency of Russia. Thank you for doing this briefing for us. My question is this: Do you agree that the talks between the United States and Russia on missile defense are effectively deadlocked? And do you see any way out?

And secondly, if I may very briefly, the military spending bill passed last month by Congress and signed by President into law includes a provision calling on the United States to normalize military relations with the Republic of Georgia, and that includes the sales of weapons to Georgia. And according to this provision, you will have to develop some sort of plan within 90 days. My question is: Would you be willing to implement this provision, and what do you make of this? Thank you.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: Okay. On the first, on Russia and missile defense, we wish more progress had been made. I mean, you ask about whether the talks are deadlocked. I would rather be able to refer to more specific progress that had been made since the Lisbon summit agreed with Russia the notion of cooperating on missile defense. I think we made some progress towards some theater missile defense exercises – Julie may want to say something more about that – which shows that the two sides, as in the past, as prior to 2008, can cooperate in a way that serves their interests.

But yes, we wish that, more broadly, we had been able to make more progress in terms of NATO-Russia and U.S.-Russia cooperation in missile defense. But we’re going to keep talking about it. Our view on the subject I think is quite clear. We, the United States and our NATO allies, are going to move forward with the European Phased Adaptive Approach because there’s a growing threat from the proliferation of ballistic missiles, potentially combined with nuclear weapons proliferation, and we owe it to ourselves, and the alliance has made a strong commitment to protect its territories, populations, and forces, and we’re go do that. It’s not directed at Russia, and indeed not only is it not directed at Russia, but we believe that we and Russia would benefit if, in addition to moving forward to protect the United States and its NATO allies, we could do it together with Russia because we believe that Russia potentially faces threats as well. That offer to work together remains on the table, and we’re going to continue to discuss it with Russia and look forward to progress in the future.

Briefly on Georgia, I don’t think it changes our approach so far. We have a security relationship with Georgia that has significantly been focused on education and training, and on Georgia’s hugely important commitment to Afghanistan. Georgia, on a per capita basis, is one of the most, either first or second, biggest contributors to Afghanistan. They have, even in recent days, taken casualties. And it underscores the risks that they are taking on our common behalf, protecting common security, and we will continue to work with Georgia on that basis.

Where specific weapons sales are concerned, we treat it like we do with other countries. They’re taken a case-by-case basis, taking a lot of factors into account. But we’ll continue that security relationship with Georgia in all of those ways.

MODERATOR: Okay. Great. We have a question all the way in the back.

QUESTION: Matt Rabechault from – sorry, Matt Rabechault from AFP. I’m shifting a bit from the different strategy, but it’s a question related to the fiscal constraints on this side of the Atlantic and the other side of the Atlantic. The Pentagon is about to announce that it would postpone the delivery of about 100 or maybe more F-35 between FY ’13 and FY ’17. And I would like to know what would be the consequences for countries like Turkey, Britain, and Italy, as the British minister of defense last week in Washington expressed concern of such further delays. Thank you.

MS. SMITH: Well, again, wait – I don’t know how many times we can say it, but obviously, the details on specific weapons programs like the F-35 will be forthcoming in the weeks ahead. I think you’ve heard Deputy Secretary Ash Carter speak frequently on the F-35, the value of it to the United States, where we position it in our priorities. I think it’s quite clear how we view this particular weapons system. I think he tried to be very reassuring when he saw the UK defense minister come through just a couple of days ago.

So again, you can look at what Ash Carter has said on this particular matter, but the details will not be forthcoming for a couple of more weeks.

QUESTION: But you – sorry, countries like UK (inaudible) maybe others have expressed their concerns already.

MS. SMITH: Yes. Oh, yes, we’ve heard concerns on multiple fronts. Certainly, the F-35, because of the role that our allies in Europe, a number of them that you mentioned, play in this particular program. And we’re fully aware of their concerns and we’re trying to consult with them throughout this entire process.

QUESTION: Can I ask you a follow-up on this F-35?

MODERATOR: Sure. One moment for the microphone, please.

QUESTION: Okay. Sorry. A follow-up about this F-35. The Turkish Government has ordered two F-35 airplanes last week. So while there is questions about the future of this program, how this order will be affecting from the decision that U.S. will – Government will take?

MS. SMITH: We can’t say that. There are multiple variants of the F-35, and so again, the details on whether or not and how the U.S. will continue to pursue those particular variants will be forthcoming. But right now, we don’t have anything to say on that particular issue in any great detail.

MODERATOR: We have a question right here. Yes, please.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MODERATOR: Mm-hmm. Thank you.

QUESTION: Jafar Jafari with (inaudible) Channel. The defense strategy – you mentioned that the U.S. will maintain an adaptive presence in the Middle East. Now given the reality of the budget cuts – the forthcoming budget cuts, maintaining an adaptive strategy, does that mean maintaining the present status quo, increasing the status quo, reducing the status quo? And I know you can’t get into specifics, but if you can talk about the – not only the Gulf area, but also North Africa and the Mediterranean?

And also, if I may, the defense strategy Mr. Gordon was talking about – I believe you said that the U.S. objective in Afghanistan would be to transition to the Afghani Government and to be in an advisory role and – similar to other areas, as in Iraq. Now, in order to do that, obviously, Taliban would have to be brought into the equation. Does this mean that the U.S. is recognizing Taliban?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: No, and I encourage you not to read that into anything that I said about transitioning to lead Afghan authority for security after 2014. That’s what NATO decided to do. That’s what we’re on track for. That’s what we are committed to. I’ll leave it to others to talk about the specifics of the reconciliation process, but I wouldn’t read – infer what you said from the plan that we’ve already made clear – is to train and equip the Afghans, moving gradually from a combat ISAF role to advise-and-assist, to lead Afghan authority. The politics of it is a separate matter.

As for your first question, I don’t know if Julie wants to --

MS. SMITH: Oh, on the – yeah, I can – but you – if you want to go ahead. I have something to say (inaudible). The – so the verbs and the strategy, if you read the strategy itself, for the Middle East, it’s maintain and adapt. It’s rebalance towards Asia, adapt our presence in Europe to the evolving strategic landscape. So, I mean, for the Middle East specifically, it is envisioned that the U.S. will maintain a presence there. Obviously, if you read the strategy, we see that the core threats to our security are stemming from two regions, from Asia and the Middle East. But whether or not that presence in the future will look exactly like it does right now is something that we’re working on. And we’re looking at the way in which our force posture is constructed in all of these regions, and what will become clearer when we roll out the budget decisions is exactly any specific changes that could be occurring.

But broadly, for the Middle East, there will be a strong U.S. presence maintained in the region.


MODERATOR: We have time for one more question, and we’ll take it right here.

QUESTION: Matt Rusling, DPA. Arab media reported yesterday that thousands of – there might be – there will be a deployment of several thousand U.S. troops in Israel. Could you confirm this? And if this is true, is this part of the strategy?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: No. I’m not (inaudible).

QUESTION: Haven’t heard of it?

MS. SMITH: Not familiar with it.


MODERATOR: Okay. All right. Well, thank you very much, everyone. We appreciate your participation.


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