WASHINGTON — The failure of all NATO-member nations to participate in the alliance’s new training mission in Iraq is “disturbing,” according to Marine Gen. James Jones, the alliance’s top operational commander.

NATO allies agreed on Nov. 17 to approve a mission to send up to 300 military instructors, as well as guards and support staff, to Iraq as part of a mission to train the country’s nascent military.

But only 16 of the alliance’s 26 member nations have agreed to actually participate in the operation.

The others, including Germany and France — both of whom vigorously opposed the Bush administration’s determination to prosecute the war in Iraq to begin with — have refused to send troops to participate in the mission.

Such recalcitrance “is disturbing,” said Jones, who is Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, during a luncheon address at the National Press Club on Tuesday.

It is important that once NATO decides to take on a mission, “all allies support it,” James said. “When nine, 10, or 11 countries in the alliance will not send forces,” Jones said, “the burden falls on the other 14” members to complete the task.

While Jones said he hopes the Iraq situation will be “a one-time issue,” the possibility of similar situations “is something that has to be discussed and given a full airing.”

Jones mentioned instances in which NATO as a whole might agree to a mission which then receives only partial member support as one of a series of “potential obstacles to [NATO’s] transformation.”

Other problems, Jones said, include the dwindling military budgets of many European countries, especially in Western Europe.

“Over 50 percent of nations in NATO spend 2 percent or less of their Gross Domestic Product on national security issues, which includes international security,” Jones said. “Not having a predictable, stable investment base” to depend on, especially as military budgets continue to decline, will make it difficult for NATO to modernize for the future, he said.

The United States spends 4.7 percent of its gross domestic product in 2004 on national security, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Jones also said that an excess of restrictions, or “caveats,” on how NATO forces may be employed once they are on a mission is a burden on commanders.

“Zero [caveats] is not possible,” Jones said. “But we can certainly do better than we’ve done.”

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