Gen. Philip Breedlove became NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe during a ceremony at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe near Mons, Belgium, on Monday. He succeeded Adm. James Stavridis, who held the position of the alliance’s top military commander since summer 2009. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen presided over the change of command. “As I take command today, I am humbled by the great company I am joining, intrigued by the challenges we will face together, and inspired by the recent achievements of soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines from across this incredible alliance,” said Breedlove. “As SACEUR, my first and enduring priority will be to ensure that NATO remains vigilant and prepared to meet the challenges and threats of the future with agile, capable, and interoperable military forces,” he added. “You will help shape a new and NATO-led mission to train, assist, and advise Afghan forces after 2014” when the alliance’s combat mission ends in Afghanistan, said Rasmussen. Breedlove is the 17th American officer and third Air Force general to hold the SACEUR post since its inception in 1951. Breedlove took the reins of US European Command from Stavridis in a separate ceremony on May 10. (Allied Command Operations release) (See also Breedlove’s blog post and Rasmussen’s remarks.)
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.