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STUTTGART, Germany — Plans for the U.S. military in Europe in 2006 should include more cooperation with other nations to promote stability, its top commander told Congress this week.

Marine Gen. James L. Jones of the U.S. European Command, who also heads NATO’s military branch, said more work between allies is needed to achieve common goals, such as fighting violent extremists.

In addition, the State and Defense departments and other agencies should work more with each other and U.S. allies to support the regions that neighbor Western Europe, Jones said.

“Western Europe has now benefited from 60 years of peace and stability,” Jones said in his annual EUCOM posture statement. “Our strategic goal is to expand similar peace and prosperity to Eastern Europe and Africa.”

The strategy is not new — the U.S. European Command since 9/11 has touted its desire to stop conflicts before they start in vulnerable areas.

“Proactive peacetime engagement activities reassure allies and partners, promote stability and mitigate the conditions that lead to conflict,” Jones said.

“We base our strategies on the principle that it is much more cost effective to prevent conflict than it is to stop one once it has started.”

Stability on the African continent should be especially targeted, he said.

Some African nations have valuable natural resources that make them potentially prosperous and valuable as trading partners. But they also have histories of unstable governments, unsteady security, and massive health and social woes, making them vulnerable to anti-Western influences, Jones said.

“As we strive to assist in halting the deteriorating conditions in [Africa], we impact on Africa’s potential for becoming the next front in the war on terrorism,” Jones said.

“The United States is not unchallenged in its quest to gain influence in and access to Africa.”

In recent years, a series of “clearinghouses” started by EUCOM brought together European nations to compare the time and money each is spending in Eastern Europe and Africa. Europe seems to be on board with the multinational strategy.

“A lot of resources are thrown at these countries and areas independently, and there is a lot of duplication,” said Patty Evans, head of security cooperation and international law with Denmark’s Ministry of Defense, who in December participated in a clearinghouse that targeted the Balkan states.

“Resources have been stretched to a much greater level in the last five years,” she said. “Therefore, we should be considering what cooperation and coordination we can do to have those resources have a greater impact.”

In Africa, military and humanitarian assistance should be long-term commitments, according to Air Force Lt. Col. Stewart Price, deputy division chief for EUCOM’s Directorate for Strategy, Policy and Assessments, Africa Division.

“More than anything, it is enabling Africans to (develop the capabilities) to deal with instability and insecurity within their own continent,” Price said.

“Africans want peace, security and stability; everybody recognizes that. The key to political and social advancement on the continent is that security and stability.”

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