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WASHINGTON — Marine Gen. James Jones had just a little bit to say but on a variety of topics during a Monday breakfast with defense writers — from a U.S. need to militarily beef up a presence in Africa, to the possible reduction of forces in western Europe and talk of a NATO involvement in reshaping Iraq.

Though not much of what Jones said was groundbreaking, the four-star general who serves both as the commander of the U.S. European Command and the supreme allied commander-Europe to NATO, summarized some of his plans to reshape U.S. and European forces.

The instability in some African nations demands more U.S. attention, he said, and leaders need to think about possibly stationing land troops on the continent to positioning an aircraft carrier battle group on African coasts instead of in the Mediterranean.

“They are clearly new routes of narco-trafficing, terrorism and a hot bed of instability that threatens our allies and our interests as well,” Jones said of unidentified African nations.

He spoke also of the shift in focus on U.S. basing in Europe — plans that could radically change how and where U.S. troops are stationed across the 93 countries that make up his command.

For the most part, Jones is studying whether it makes sound military sense to move installations to some former Soviet-block countries — where things are cheaper and not so urbanized, he said.

But he doesn’t envision moving entire bases — complete with family housing and schools. Instead, he’s found the “almost perfect example” of a forward operating base in Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo, now home to roughly 3,000 troops.

The camp is made up of semipermanent structures, to include about 200 sea huts that serve as residential units and office space; three mess halls; communication infrastructure; helipads; weight facilities; and a Burger King, cappuccino bar and an Anthony’s Pizza, said National Guardsman Maj. Dave Durling, a spokesman there.

Some western Europe bases would likely stay, such as Ramstein Air Base, Jones cited as an example. The base’s location has proved useful in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Jones also said he hopes that by October, Europe and the United States will have a well-defined plan of which European nations will sign up for the to-be-created NATO Response Force. He even hopes to have the first elements up and running by then.

All 26 nations, the 19 core and seven newly invited Eastern block nations that make the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, have expressed some interest in the elite rapid response units, from being part of the “tip of the spear down to conflict resolution force,” Jones said.

But interested European nations will have to begin by reducing their combined 2.3 million troops — a move that should mirror the U.S. military drawdown of 1990s, Jones said.

“They’re going to have start downsizing and reshaping … and start moving toward efficient forces” before the NATO nations start addressing technological shortcomings, he said.

The most elite of the force would be able to deploy within five days, and all would operate on a rotational basis. It’s no accident that the force would mirror the make up and operations of the U.S. Marine Corps, which Jones led as its commandant before taking his new post in January.


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