The weekend meeting of NATO's Military Committee, the organization's top decision-making body, was held in Budapest on Saturday, with a focus on topical issues such as the Middle East and North Africa, including Syria.
Committee Chair, General Knud Bartels, said at a joint press conference that the purpose of the meeting was to discuss issues important to the military authorities of the members and to reach consensus on realistic measures. Issues of importance he said, include readiness to defend Turkey in keeping with a decision taken a year ago, given that Turkey shares a border with Syria. Along this line, NATO is closely monitoring events along that border.
Among other top issues is Afghanistan, where NATO is in the process of transferring operations to the Afghan national security forces. Bartels said that the transfer was going well and the national forces were now conducting complex operations throughout the country. NATO will, however, continue to train, advise and assist the Afghan forces and no final decision on withdrawal has yet been made, he said.
Speaking about Kosovo, Bartels acknowledged progress towards security and stability, saying that the NATO mission in Kosovo, known as KFOR, was working to assist local institutions in taking over operations although it remained KFOR's responsibility to ensure a safe and secure environment for all people. The size of KFOR will gradually be reduced when conditions allow it, he added.
He also discussed NATO's transformation under its new Smart Defense Initiative which is intended to streamline NATO operations by pooling and sharing capabilities, setting priorities and coordinating efforts towards a new mindset, to keep the organization operating efficiently despite budget constraints.
He spoke about a large-scale exercise set for 2015, which he called an invaluable opportunity to test command and response structures and demonstrate the ability and relevance of the alliance.
Bartels also announced that the next meeting of the NATO Military Committee outside of its Brussels' headquarters would be in Vilnius, Lithuania, in September 2014.
Hungarian Armed Forces Chief of Staff Tibor Benko noted at the press conference that Hungary was fully involved in NATO operations in both Afghanistan and Kosovo and would continue to support the alliance to the best of its ability.
He also spoke of the planned NATO revamp and pointed to the C-17 strategic airlift capability in which 12 nations, 10 of which are NATO members, are operating a facility in Papa, Hungary, allowing the Globemasters to be deployed where needed.
The project emphasizes NATO's capability-sharing initiative, for none of the small countries making up the group would be able to maintain this airlift capacity on their own.