There is a perception in some circles, said Army Gen. John Craddock, that because NATO is short troops in Afghanistan, the alliance is “carpet bombing” targets in the war on terror. This isn’t the case, the Supreme Allied Commander Europe and chief of US European Command told defense reporters May 18 in Washington D.C. Close air support strikes are, by definition, against unplanned targets, and NATO is dealing with an enemy that regularly seeks safety in villages and buildings. In battle, split-second decisions must be made about whether it is worth hitting a building occupied by a handful of terrorists. Craddock acknowledged that civilians are being inadvertently killed on occasion, which is a problem, but air power’s speed and accuracy is not the culprit. Ultimately, he said, decisions to attack targets always rest with individuals.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.