AFSOUTH (Allied Forces Southern Europe)
Allied Forces Southern Europe (AFSOUTH) forms one of the three major subordinate commands of NATO, and Allied Forces Northern Europe (AFNORTH). (AFCENT - Central Europe - was removed with the 1999 NATO restructuring) Based in Naples, AFSOUTH's area of responsibility includes Greece, Hungary, Italy, Spain and Turkey, as well as the Black Sea, Sea of Azov and the whole of the Mediterranean including its approaches. The military and civilian personnel of AFSOUTH comprise of almost all the nations in the alliance.
Currently AFSOUTH is participating in four major on-going campaigns -
Active Endeavour - NATO maritime exercise in the Mediterranean as part of the The War against Terrorism
Operation Amber Fox - NATO operation in Macedonia
Operation Joint Forge - NATO operation in Bosnia-Herzegovina
Operation JointGuardian - NATO operation in Kosovo
Rather than being of interest purely for organisational purposes, the command of AFSOUTH has of recent presented an international political issue between the United States and France. Ever since the fierce leadership of Charles De Gaulle, France has been to NATO what Britain is to the EU - a reluctant partner, and therefore French military policy aligns strictly against American influence in European affairs. France is insistant on the command of AFSOUTH - currently held by an American (Navy Admiral Gregory G. Johnson) - to be replaced by a European, and the French are using this issue as a bargaining chip as they reintegrate into the overall NATO military structure.
As Admiral Johnson is the only American subordinate commander in Europe, such a move would potentially weaken the alliance, at a time when American military strength is crucial to NATO. AFSOUTH has emerged as a area of primary importance to European stability, and the experience of Bosnia has showen the importance of a strong American presence, and most importantly leadership, in regional campaigns. European involvement in European NATO is steadily increasing (over three-fourths of senior positions are held by Europeans).
The French demands for AFSOUTH's American command to be relinquished in this light appear to be primarily diplomatic posturing. For AFSOUTH to be commanded by a European would have a large detrimental impact on trans-Atlantic cooperation in what could be argued as NATO's most important subordinate command.
Edited to correct AFCENT mistake.
- AFSOUTH Homepage (A wonderful resource for AFSOUTH information, but naturally does not address the command debate)
- Tiersky, Ronald. 'French Military Reform and NATO Restructuring' in The Defence Technical Information Center. Spring 1997