Green Light For Enhanced NATO Response Force

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NATO defense ministers approved a plan for an enhanced NATO Response Force (NRF) at a meeting in Brussels on Oct. 8. 

The rapid reaction force has been doubled in size to 40,000 troops and has a new very high readiness joint task force or spearhead force capable of deploying in two days. With Germany's announcement that it will lead this force in 2019, there are committed lead nations until 2022.

The plan approved by allied ministers also includes command and control arrangements for the NRF, for which NATO's Joint Force Command (JFC) Brunssum will be on standby to provide, if needed, in 2016, following its expected certification during Exercise Trident Junction which kicked off in southern Europe over the weekend.

During the first of two press conferences on Oct. 8, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said military commanders had confirmed that the capabilities and infrastructure exist for the NRF to be sustained on the alliance's southern flank.

He also reported progress on building the infrastructure to support the NRF and other reinforcements for eastern European allies, who have been rattled by Russia's involvement in the fighting in neighboring Ukraine. Ministers approved the creation of two more NATO force integration units, small headquarters designed to make it easier to deploy troops on exercises or during a crisis, in Hungary and Slovakia. This is in addition to the headquarters already set up in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Bulgaria and Romania.

Ministers also discussed the situation in Syria and Afghanistan, expressing "serious concerns" about Russian military actions in Syria. Stoltenberg called on Russia to play a "constructive role" in combating the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), adding that Russian actions and support of the Assad regime "are not helpful" and air incursions into Turkey "unacceptable."

He said that alliance members will in coming weeks complete a security assessment of the situation in Afghanistan which will be used to decide the duration and personnel strength of NATO's Resolute Support mission to train the Afghan national security forces.

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