NATO Stresses Continuity as Breedlove Succeeds Stavridis
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
MONS, Belgium, May 13, 2013 NATO’s focus will remain squarely on Afghanistan as Air Force Gen. Philip M. Breedlove succeeds Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis as the alliance’s supreme allied commander, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said here today.
On a cool, windy day, Rasmussen passed the colors of Supreme Allied Command Operations from Stavridis to Breedlove. Rain threatened, but never materialized.
NATO is the heart and soul of the 50-nation coalition in Afghanistan, the secretary general said, and the alliance has been involved since the formation of the International Security Assistance Force.
“On your watch,” he said to Breedlove, “Afghan forces will be taking full responsibility for the security of their own country, and ISAF will complete its combat mission -- as planned -- at the end of 2014. You will help shape a new and NATO-led mission to train, assist and advise Afghan forces after 2014.”
But the alliance is more than the war in Afghanistan, Rasmussen noted. NATO forces also serve off the Horn of Africa to deter piracy, patrol the Mediterranean Sea, serve in Kosovo and patrol over the Baltic Sea. NATO forces deployed to Turkey are protecting that ally from Syrian missiles, he said.
These are demanding operational tasks, the secretary general said, but Breedlove also must complete the reform of NATO’s command structure to make it “leaner, more effective and more affordable.” Rasmussen expresseded his confidence in Breedlove’s ability to meet the challenge.
The secretary general then turned to Stavridis, the first Navy admiral to hold the position. Rasmussen said the admiral “has navigated these uncharted waters with great skill.”
Rasmussen said the secret of the admiral’s success lies with his philosophy that the security of the future should be built by bridges, rather than walls. In Afghanistan, Stavridis built bridges among NATO allies, coalition partners and the Afghan government, he said.
“Your bridge-building skills were also evident in 2011 when NATO responded to a United Nations call and deployed a force in record time to protect the people of Libya,” Rasmussen said. “You have also stayed focused on the strategic horizon and NATO and [Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe] have benefited from your innovation.”
During his time at the headquarters, Stavridis established a comprehensive crisis management center and an alliance special operations headquarters. And he has reached out, Rasmussen said.
“You have blogged and you have tweeted to help explain the value of our alliance and to sustain political and public support for what we do,” the secretary general said to the admiral.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, Rasmussen presented Stavridis with the NATO Meritorious Service Medal. The admiral will retire from the Navy and become the dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts University in Medford, Mass.