Defense Secretary Robert Gates made the pronouncement in a speech Friday in Brussels, as part of a European tour before he retires at the end of this month.
Amid budget cutbacks and a 'diminishing appetite' for war, Europe has turned increasingly to the 'soft power' assignments like training and institution-building.
A rough trip to Asia behind him, Obama is heading to Europe, where his popularity is still high. But economic policy disputes with the Continent's leaders may make for a cool reception.
The president made few concrete gains in his first overseas trip, but helped begin remaking America's image in the world.
A consensus to isolate the group is fraying due to the lack of political results.