Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, attended a meeting of NATO’s defense chiefs on Wednesday, where leaders from the alliance are slated to discuss concerns ranging from Afghanistan to Russia.

The 177th Military Committee meeting took place in Brussels and was chaired by Czech Army Gen. Petr Pavel.  According to his statement made prior to the onset of the day’s events, the intent of the gathering was simple: to translate “political objectives into military reality; to deliver tangible, coherent and sustainable effects that influence the strategic environment to make it more safe and more secure.”

“We will discuss two issues that are high on the political agenda: projecting stability to strengthen security beyond our borders and how to enhance NATO’s role in fighting terrorism,” Pavel said.

The first issue on the docket was a strategic assessment of the Middle East and North Africa, with an eye toward determining what the next steps are for the international organization in terms of training and the “capacity building effort in Iraq.”  It is expected that Defense Chiefs will discuss how to better incorporate assistance from the European Union and other international organizations in the ongoing war effort in the Middle East.

The entire afternoon is scheduled to address the situation in Afghanistan, which has re-emerged in the headlines in recent months due to the unfortunate deaths of three U.S. special operations soldiers in combat operations against ISIS, as well as the dropping of the largest non-nuclear weapon in the American arsenal, the MOAB, on a subterranean cave complex housing ISIS fighters.  In a testimony delivered to Congress last year, Army Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr., the commander of the Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan and U.S. Forces Afghanistan, explained that the fight had reached a “stalemate.”  In the months since, Nicholson has continued to ask for more troops to serve as advisors, but no nation has expressed a specific interest in providing them.

“As part of a wider effort by the international community, the continued development of the Afghan national defense and security forces is a vital contribution to the stability of the country — to ensure its own security and permit economic and social development,” Pavel said.

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“Our aim today is to reaffirm our support in the ongoing development of the Afghan national defense and security forces, preferably aligned with their four-year development plan.”

The four-year development plan established by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani sets goals intended to make Afghanistan stable and self-sustaining.  It includes calls for the Afghan government to be capable of providing security to eighty percent of its population by 2020, among a number of other domestic improvements.

Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, commander of U.S. European Command and the Supreme Allied Commander Europe; and Gen. Nicholson are both expected to brief the group on Wednesday afternoon.

And as had been a consistent trend in all NATO meetings, there is also a portion of the schedule devoted to the concept of “burden sharing,” wherein all but five of NATO’s 28 member states will likely feel pressure from the United States by way of Dunford to begin meeting their financial obligations to the alliance.  NATO members pledged to meet the required defense spending mark of two percent of each nation’s gross domestic product in 2014 at the Wales Summit and again last year at the Warsaw Summit, but the promised changes have not been forthcoming.

“From the military side, we should focus our efforts on meeting our capability targets and the priority areas for enhancing NATO’s military capabilities across all domains,” Pavel said regarding defense spending.

Image courtesy of the Defense Department