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NATO Allies to Extend Command Lengths in Afghanistan

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 21, 2008 – Two NATO allies have agreed to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates’ request to extend their commands of Regional Command South from nine to 12 months, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said today.

The Dutch will assume command from the Canadians in November, becoming the first NATO International Security Assistance Force country to command Regional Command South for a full year.

Great Britain will follow the Netherlands for another 12-month command, Morrell said.

Morrell said it’s too soon to know how long the United States will command Regional Command South when it assumes command from the British in November 2010, but indicated that it likely would be at least a year.

“We believe this [12-month] arrangement … will provide greater predictability, continuity [and] stability in this volatile, but vitally important, region of Afghanistan,” he said.

The command extensions do not affect European nations’ troop rotations in Afghanistan, typically three to six months.

Morrell conceded that these short deployments create “a lot of turnover,” but said extended command lengths will help reduce the disruption. Longer command tours will create “greater stability and continuity to our operations in RC South,” he said.

The change could shift focus to other command changes.

“We are always looking at ways to improve the command structure in Afghanistan,’ Morrell said, noting that more than 40 countries contribute to the effort. “It is a complicated, large operation, and we are constantly looking at ways to improve how we run it.”

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