SACEUR: Syria Will Not be a NATO Mission

SACEUR General Philip M. Breedlove

From Jonathan Marcus, BBC:  A new Nato mission – dubbed "Resolute Support" – will begin to provide the Afghan armed forces with critical advice and support.

The man who has to watch over this crucial and potentially difficult period of transition is the alliance’s new supreme allied commander in Europe (Saceur), General Philip Breedlove. . . .

Afghan forces, he insisted, were stepping up to the mark.

"They are standing, fighting not wilting," he told me. "They are fighting well and recovering from those engagements."

There were still, as he put it, "some areas where we need to work on their abilities to sustain themselves in the fight – we have until the end of 2014 to do that. . . ."

What is happening in Turkey right now is a great demonstration of what Nato is all about. Nato has come to the aid of an ally," he told me.

Six batteries of Patriot missiles from three countries – the US, Germany and the Netherlands – are operational there on the ground.

Turkey is focus

What about a potential Nato-led "no fly" operation, I asked. How quickly could it be up and running?

Gen Breedlove would not be drawn.

"Right now there is no intention for Nato to be involved inside Syria in a kinetic way," he said. "I can only opine that if there were to be a Syria operation it would be a non-Nato mission."

"The focus now," he insisted, "is on defence of Turkey."

But with combat operations in Afghanistan – at least for Nato – drawing down, Gen Breedlove is also inevitably thinking about the alliance’s wider military role post-Afghanistan.

I put it to him that almost ever since the end of the Cold War there has been some kind of military mission – starting in the Balkans – that gave Nato a sense of military purpose.

"Clearly we will see a change in our mission in Afghanistan," he cautioned, but "the mission is not over".

But he is thinking a great deal about going forward, he told me.

"Right now we have a Nato that is at the pinnacle of its ability to operate together – our tactics, techniques and procedures are better than they have ever been. We work cohesively now in a team way that was never known in Nato."  (photo: American Forces Network Europe)

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