NATO Secretary General welcomes new Supreme Allied Commander Europe
United States Air Force General Philip Mark Breedlove took over command of NATO’s Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) from Admiral James Stavridis during a handover ceremony in Mons, Belgium on Monday ( 13 May 2013). "I am honoured to be here today for this handover ceremony to thank Admiral Stavridis for his outstanding contribution to transatlantic security and to welcome our new Supreme Allied Commander, General Breedlove, to the Alliance," said NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who attended the ceremony.
The Secretary General, in welcoming the new Supreme Allied Commander, said that NATO's top priority remains its mission in Afghanistan. “On your watch, 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 different NATO-led mission: to train, assist and advise the Afghan forces after 2014,” said Mr. Fogh Rasmussen.
In addition to operations, the Secretary General said that the Alliance needs to enhance its ability to defend against threats such as missile proliferation, terrorism and cyber-attacks amid tough economic times. “I know you come well prepared. You are an exceptional leader and I am looking very much forward to working with you in the years ahead,” he said. General Breedlove will be responsible for the overall command of all NATO missions and operations, including in the Balkans, over the Baltic, in the Mediterranean and off the Horn of Africa. Over 110,000 NATO troops work together in those operations.
Mr. Fogh Rasmussen also paid tribute to Admiral Stavridis for his outstanding job as Supreme Allied Commander. “Admiral, you are the first naval officer to have served as NATO commander in Europe. But you have navigated these uncharted waters with great skill," he said. During Admiral Stavridis’ command, SHAPE led a successful United Nations-mandated campaign to protect the people of Libya. In recognition of his service to NATO, the Secretary General awarded Admiral Stavridis the NATO Meritorious Service medal.
"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 General Breedlove.
"Within the borders of our Alliance we enjoy unprecedented levels of stability, but beyond our frontiers there is uncertainty and insecurity," he continued. "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."