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EUCOM Commander Gen. Bantz J. Craddock said that the command may not be able to perform as many military-to-military missions like this one in Niger in 2005 if troops and other assets continue to be deployed to war zones in Afghanistan and Iraq.
EUCOM Commander Gen. Bantz J. Craddock said that the command may not be able to perform as many military-to-military missions like this one in Niger in 2005 if troops and other assets continue to be deployed to war zones in Afghanistan and Iraq. (Charlie Coon / S&S)

The U.S. military’s top general in Europe said the continuing rotation of Europe-based troops to higher-priority missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the relocation of troops from Europe to the U.S., has left his cupboard a tad bare.

Army Gen. Bantz J. Craddock of the U.S. European Command said he is concerned he might not have enough troops to carry out his command’s top priorities: working effectively with partner nations and waging war if necessary in his area of responsibility.

“We have very little capacity left after we source the global force pool, if you will, for these ongoing [EUCOM missions],” Craddock said last week in testimony before the House Armed Services Committee.

“We try to shape the environment for the future. And that’s by engagement, that’s by theater security cooperation — not assistance, but we cooperate. We send our forces and they cooperate and train and exercise with partner nations.

“Our ability to do that now is limited because we don’t have the forces available since they are in the rotation to the other [missions],” he said.

Craddock, who took over command of EUCOM in December, said coalition-building was one of the military’s top priorities, but its ability to do military-to-military events in Europe and Africa has waned.

“Now, we are still doing it to the extent that we have the forces available,” Craddock said. “But I will tell you that I reviewed all of the engagement opportunities over the last two years, the exercises that we do, and asked for a listing of everything we had to cancel and why. And it was surprising in its volume.

“In other words, there was more there than I expected.”

A Navy-led exercise called Adriatic Phiblex in the Adriatic Sea and the Army-led Victory Strike in Poland were among recent cancellations. Partner-unit engagements, troop exchanges and social opportunities also have diminished, according to a EUCOM spokesman speaking on background.

Craddock recalled from his days as a division commander in Germany that close, ongoing military-to-military relationships with partner nations were more effective than piecemeal exercises. In recent years, EUCOM has been trying to build military-to-military relationships with Africa and other nations.

“Those relationships that you established were very important, and they provided access, they provided trust and confidence,” Craddock said. “And the capacity building, I believe, moved along much faster.”

Craddock called the U.S. Europe-based troops — many of whom have been deployed numerous times to Iraq and Afghanistan — “an incredibly talented, veteran force.”

But he added that if they were somewhere else, they couldn’t help out in Europe or Africa should trouble arise.

“The question is one of capacity,” Craddock said. “If something else arises and the forces assigned to European Command are engaged in (other) missions, then I would have to go back to the chairman (of Joint Chiefs of Staff) with a request for forces. And then it falls into another process where the forces must be generated and assigned.”

Craddock said he has asked his staff to review transformation plans, which were outlined in 2002.

The plan calls for a reduction of Europe-based soldiers from about 62,000 three years ago to about 28,000, to be completed by 2012. Most of the Würzburg, Germany-based 1st Infantry Division was moved last year to Fort Riley, Kan. The 12,000-soldier, Wiesbaden, Germany-based 1st Armored Division is slated to move to the U.S. during the next several years.

The Air Force and Navy also have made adjustments to their forces in Europe.

“Let’s validate the posture,” Craddock said, “because it may well be that our ability to support the national military strategy and the plan we made in 2002 with the numbers of forces may need adjustment.”

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