Presentation of Royal Honour to General J.F. Dunford Jr by the Minister of Defence, drs A.Th. B. Bijleveld-Schouten, on Friday 18 January in The Hague.
Ladies and gentlemen, General Dunford,
It is a great honour to welcome you to the Ministry of Defence. Our bond with the US armed forces is strong and our mutual cooperation is of great value. Within NATO, the UN and other coalitions.
As an Alliance, we are witnessing a changing security situation, with a threat landscape that is becoming more complex, more diverse and more uncertain.
In this light, it is of paramount importance that we invest in the strength of our Alliance and protect the values the Alliance stands for.
I therefore fully endorse the view that we need to improve burden sharing within NATO in relation to cash, capabilities and contributions.
European NATO allies, including the Netherlands, need to take more responsibility for their security.
Because our Alliance is now more important than ever before.
And unity is our most important weapon.
For this, we need to be constantly looking out for opportunities to connect.
Your efforts in this area are an example to us all.
You are known as a connector pur sang.
I recently received a letter from Henne Schuwer, our ambassador in Washington, who described your role with great eloquence. He wrote:
“Generaal Dunford embraces all allies – both large and small – and appreciates every significant contribution. He is a subtle advocate for the Netherlands, resulting in the fact that we are heard in various international forums. His inspiring attitude helps to strengthen the ties between allies as we move forwards to deal with the ever more diffuse and complex threats that face us.”
I think that is special.
Special in the way that you look beyond the national interests of your own country.
That you have an interest in the position and contribution of the Netherlands armed forces.
Your approach has been of great benefit to us.
When you were commander of the US Marine Corps, you put your weight behind collaboration with marines units of various nations.
That resulted in combined training and exercises, exchange programmes for personnel and the sharing of experience and expertise.
We then encountered you in Afghanistan.
There, from February 2013 to August 2014, you were in command of approximately 84,000 NATO troops, including 200 Dutch military personnel.
Your mission was to bring ISAF to completion and to prepare the way for the follow-up mission Resolute Support.
These were complicated times, particularly because Afghanistan needed to take responsibility for its own security and stability.
It was demanding for the troops and certainly for you, as the commander.
But you were the right man in the right place.
“Practical, blessed with a realistic and sound feeling for politics and committed to his troops.”
That was how Mr Maurits Jochems described you.
In Afghanistan, as NATO’s Senior Civilian Representative, he worked closely with you (and he is here with us today).
Finally, over the past few years, we were lucky enough to work with you in Iraq and Syria.
After the advance of ISIS in 2014, you took the initiative of setting up an international coalition to combat this terrorist organization.
This coalition has now evolved into an impressive alliance of more than 80 nations.
You also involved civilian partners.
Because you believe that we need more than just a military solution to the problem.
This meant that ISIS could be fought effectively.
It also resulted in the so called CVEO (countering violent extremist organisations) Framework.
Without your personal support and determined hard work, that would not have been possible.
And my hope is that in the years to come, this military network will continue to benefit its members.
Because of your outstanding and invaluable services to international peace and security…
…your uniting and inspiring role within various coalitions…
…and your constructive and positive attitude in respect of the Netherlands armed forces…
…I am delighted to tell you that it pleases His Majesty King Willem-Alexander to nominate you as a Commander in the Order of Orange-Nassau with swords!
I will now ask my ADC to read the decree.