Tuesday, August 4, 2009
NATO's governing body approved a plan on Tuesday to reorganize the alliance's command structure in Afghanistan by setting up a new headquarters to handle the day-to-day running of the war.
NATO spokesman James Appathurai said the new Intermediate Joint Headquarters will be commanded by U.S. Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez. Rodriguez participated in Tuesday's deliberations of the North Atlantic Council governing body by videoconference along with his boss, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan.
The decision is part of a reorganization of the U.S. and NATO command structure aimed at easing the pressure on McChrystal by removing his burden of the day-to-day operation of the war. It is similar to the model used in Iraq, where overall command of the multinational forces was under a four-star American general, while a three-star general ran daily operations.
NATO has about 64,000 troops _half of them Americans — in Afghanistan. The new headquarters will not control the separate U.S. contingent of about 10,000 soldiers that is deployed along the border with Pakistan, Appathurai said.
He said the videoconference — the first meeting of NATO's decision-making panel chaired by the organization's new secretary general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen — also discussed other aspects of the war.
Fogh Rasmussen; U.S. Adm. James Stavridis, the new supreme allied commander; and McChrystal "all stressed ... the equipping and training of Afghan security forces as a principal priority for NATO," Appathurai said.
NATO is sending additional reinforcements to help stabilize the country ahead of Afghanistan's presidential elections on Aug. 20.
"The assessment around the table was that elections will not be easy to secure, but that (NATO forces) will provide as much support for the Afghan security forces as we can for elections to be credible in the eyes of the Afghan people," the NATO spokesman said.
During the meeting, Fogh Rasmussen briefed the council on his priorities as secretary general, including focusing on the war in Afghanistan, seeking to improve NATO's testy relations with a resurgent Russia, and furthering cooperation with NATO's partner nations in North Africa and the Middle East.
"The secretary general outlined his priorities to the council and received full support for them," Appathurai said.
Traditionally, an American officer commands the alliance's military forces from NATO headquarters in Mons, Belgium, while a European civilian heads its political office in Brussels. Both Fogh Rasmussen and Stavridis are new to their posts, part of a new team that will direct the conflict in Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, talked over the weekend at a NATO air base in Belgium with Gen. David Petraeus, who has overall responsibility for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Gates and Mullen were given an interim report on security in Afghanistan.
McChrystal is putting together an assessment of the war that may include a request for additional U.S. forces and resources.