NATO replaces top soldier with sailor

May 13th, 2009 - 12:47 am ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama Mons (Belgium), May 12 (DPA) NATO Tuesday appointed a US admiral to take charge of all its military operations, including the ground war in Afghanistan, as the former commander, General Bantz J. Craddock, retired.
NATO’s top planning committee has appointed Admiral James Stavridis as the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), at the request of US President Barack Obama, a NATO press release said.

It is the first time in 55 years that a sailor has been handed NATO’s highest operational command, following 12 army generals, two air force chiefs and one marine.

The committee “agreed with great regret” to the retirement of Craddock, a four-star general and former tank commander who turns 60 next year, the statement said.

Stavridis takes over the command of NATO’s military headquarters, based in the Belgian town of Mons, as the alliance is battling to stabilise Afghanistan in the face of the Taliban insurgency.

According to his official biography, the admiral is a surface-warfare specialist who saw combat as the commander of a carrier battle group during the US-led invasion of Iraq.

Prior to his appointment as SACEUR, he served as the commander of US Southern Command, a post Craddock also held before he took over command at NATO.

NATO’s current operations also include peacekeeping in Kosovo and fighting piracy off the coast of Somalia.

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