The United States remains committed to NATO, history’s most successful military alliance, as it transforms to match the changing character of war, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters traveling with him to this week’s NATO defense ministers conference in Brussels.

In addition to attending the conference and meeting with counterparts from other NATO member nations, Mattis also will host a meeting of ministers from the coalition to counter the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria during his second international trip as defense secretary.

“Our commitment remains to NATO, [which is] … in the midst of transformation. Why? You’ve watched as the character of war over this last dozen years has changed itself, and as the character of war changes, so must the character of the militaries that address them,” Mattis said.

To underscore the alliance’s commitment to change, the secretary noted that the only NATO command with a headquarters in the United States is Allied Command Transformation.

Transformation Must Continue

“The whole point of that command is to transform NATO, so … we go to Brussels where we all get together, we talk about that transformation, [and] we guide it. NATO has transformed over these last 20 years, and it must continue to transform,” Mattis said.

As secretary, he added, his approach to NATO is “full-speed ahead and listen, learn, help and lead.”

Listening is first, he said. “Learn what other people face, help them wherever I can, because they’ve been allies. They stood by us after New York was attacked and so many decades before that. And many of them have lost boys, lost women in fighting the enemy that attacked America. And then lead, … [because] America has a leadership role.”

On Feb. 17, Mattis will attend the Munich Security Conference in Germany, where he will hold a series of meetings with key international counterparts.

The trip will underscore the U.S. commitment to the NATO alliance and to defeating ISIS, according to a Feb. 10 DoD news release announcing the secretary’s trip.

By Cheryl Pellerin