A closer look at the plan
Stars and Stripes June 15, 2003
Here’s how Gen. James L. Jones’ plan would break down:
Jones, leader of the U.S. European Command, has been looking for places to move units into Europe’s eastern frontier.
The impoverished former Soviet bloc countries, he reasons, are ripe for the kind of training opportunities no longer available in crowded, affluent Western Europe. Positioning there also would bring his troops closer to the kind of front lines he envisions his forces fighting in — the rugged hideaways of radical Islam and the smuggling routes of the drug runners who support them.
Jones has publicly mentioned Romania and Bulgaria as possibilities to host such forces.
“They represent extremely good candidates for some sort of presence and continuing relations in the future,” Jones told a gathering of reporters in Washington, D.C., April 28. Basing opportunities are also being explored in Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, say officials.
But Jones’ vision for new bases is far different from the current “mini American cities,” as he’s called the existing bases in Europe.
“We’re not looking for the 20th-century model of building small cities where you bring your schools, your families, your hospitals, your small villages and everything else,” Jones said.
Instead, he envisions bare-bones bases, citing places such as Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo as a good example; units can rotate into these bases for training and use them as launch pads for real-world missions.
Jones’ second spearhead focuses to the south into the ever-troubled continent of Africa.
“In Europe, we don’t pay enough attention to Africa, but I think we’re going to have to in the 21st century. So even there, we’re looking for new relationships and new ways to take the forces … and make them more agile,” Jones said.
His Marines have responded to some kind of crisis there virtually every year since the first Gulf War in 1991. Jones also knows that terror cells have long found havens in the remote wastelands of the Sahara — places such as northern Mali, Libya, Algeria and Sudan.
The recent terror attacks in Saudi Arabia and Morocco are a sign of more violence to come, say officials.
Deeper into the continent, places such as Congo, Sierra Leone and Rwanda have been steeped in civil war for years. Every day a humanitarian crisis seems to emerge. All this comes under a backdrop of a widespread AIDS crisis in Africa.
“In Africa you have a developing problem of large ungoverned regions,” Jones said. “It’s a potential hotbed for terrorism, for massive poverty and all kinds of criminal elements that find a nest there.”
Involvement of U.S. forces there has so far been largely reactive, he said.
For example, EUCOM sent humanitarian aid to Algeria following an earthquake there last month. EUCOM regularly supplies humanitarian assistance, and in the past year has delivered supplies to many countries, such as Serbia and Montenegro, and Kenya.
On the last axis, Jones wants to look for ways to relocate significant numbers of troops to the United States.
Perhaps the most controversial part of Jones’ proposal is to rotate units from the States and from those still remaining in Western Europe to his new forward sites to the south and east.
“The springboard that is our present capability in Europe will be more flexible,” Jones said. “Soldiers and airmen in particular will be training and operating in different areas. Some of them might come out of the United States for temporary rotations. And at the end of those rotations they’ll come back to their home base — whether they’re in Germany, Italy or the U.S.”