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Stavridis Reflects on Southcom Success Ahead of New European Post

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 17, 2009 – Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis reflected on the security achievements and humanitarian relief efforts he oversaw during his tenure as commander of U.S. Southern Command in a Miami Herald opinion article yesterday.

The admiral emphasized how international partnerships and the so-called “whole-of-government” approach that complements military efforts with diplomacy, economic aid and other instruments of state power, helped to foil narco-terrorism in Colombia and fostered humanitarian relief for thousands.

“We dedicate the majority of our resources to building the security capabilities of our partners while encouraging an environment of cooperation among the nations in the region,” he said. “The mutual benefits of these partnering efforts are profound.”

Stavridis is slated to assume duty as NATO’s supreme allied commander for Europe and commander of U.S. European Command this summer, having received Senate confirmation.

In his Miami Herald article, the admiral underscored the importance of regional cooperation in his time at Southcom, which comprises 19 nations in Central and South America and 13 in the Caribbean.

“Complex opportunities and persistent security problems -- like illicit trafficking, criminal activity, gangs, terrorist financing and recruitment, natural disasters -- do not stop at a nation's border,” Stavridis wrote. “These challenges require cooperative solutions and partnerships, and therein lay the opportunities.”

Stavridis said Colombia's mounting success against illegal armed groups illustrates how building partner capacity pays dividends. Southcom’s role in the relationship has been to provide training, logistical and technical support to bolster Colombian crackdowns on narco-terrorists.

“For the first time in decades, the Colombian government is providing services in all of its municipalities, and the Colombian people have a renewed confidence in their future,” he wrote. “As Colombia ‘wins its peace,’ the entire region benefits, because the narco-terrorists lose capacity to grow and transport drugs.”

In addition to security programs and military exercises, Southcom also supports humanitarian assistance missions, Stavridis said.

“As an example of our commitment to the people of the region, our medical personnel treated almost 700,000 patients in the past three years, varying from routine prevention to the most serious emergency cases,” he said. “A key aspect of the mission is the partnership of military personnel with other government agencies and nongovernmental organizations.”

Stavridis, who will become the first naval officer to hold the command in Europe when he replaces Army Gen. Bantz J. Craddock, will face a host of separate issues there.

As the top NATO commander, he will be responsible for overseeing the alliance’s military contingent in Afghanistan. Stavridis also is likely to figure prominently in coordinating NATO members’ war contributions, which in the past have been criticized as disproportionate to the size and scope of U.S. efforts.

American troop levels in Afghanistan are slated to rise to about 68,000 when a current wave of deployments is completed, compared to about 33,000 other NATO forces there.

At his June 2 confirmation hearing, Stavridis told the Senate Armed Services Committee that upon assuming his new role, he would urge European allies to continue standing with the United States in Afghanistan.

“I hope to be a positive force … in convincing our allies to continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with us in important missions throughout the world, and in particular, in Afghanistan,” he said.

On the European continent, Stavridis will be greeted by a relationship with Russia that is complicated by several hot-button issues. Russia’s conflict with Georgia last year put NATO and Moscow at odds, and tension appears to have increased between the neighbors this week, as Russia ordered international peacekeepers to leave the breakaway Georgian provinces that served as flashpoints in the August war. Moscow also has been reluctant to accept U.S. plans to deploy missile defense equipment in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Stavridis has vowed to take the same tack in Europe that yielded security gains and forged relationships at Southcom.

“My approach will be, as it has been at Southern Command for the last three years, to be collegial, to be oriented toward international solutions, multilateral approaches and, above all, interagency and whole-of-government,” he said at his confirmation hearing. “These are challenging times in Europe; they're challenging times in Afghanistan and the world. If confirmed, I will do my best.”

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Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis

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