By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 19, 2013 – Afghan security forces are on track to assume complete control of security in the country, and NATO is monitoring the situation in Syria, the top U.S. commander in Europe said here today.
“They currently have 87 percent of the population under their remit, and that will go up to 100 percent this year,” said Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis, who also serves as NATO’s supreme allied commander for Europe.
Stavridis told the Senate Armed Services Committee he is “very focused” on Afghanistan, which he called “a key operational mission for NATO at the moment.”
The admiral said he believes the president's decision to draw down 34,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan by February 2014 “looks militarily supportable.” Additionally, he said, NATO intends to negotiate a status of forces agreement with Afghanistan for NATO forces to participate in a post-2014 mission -- independent of the U.S. negotiation for a similar agreement.
“It's going to be sequential,” he told the senators. “We're going to conclude the U.S. [bilateral security agreement], … and then we will move forward with the NATO one after that, using the U.S. one as a basis.”
Stavridis also discussed NATO’s position on the current situation in Syria.
“As we all know, the Syrian situation continues to become worse and worse and worse -- 70,000 killed, a million refugees pushed out of the country, probably 2.5 million internally displaced,” he said. “No end in sight to a vicious civil war. The alliance has taken a position that it will follow the same sequence that was used in Libya.”
Prior to NATO involvement, he explained, there would have to be a U.N. Security Council resolution, a regional agreement, and agreement among the alliance’s 28 nations.
“So within NATO channels, what we are focused on is defending that border with Syria,” Stavridis added. “We've moved Patriot missiles down [there] to do that. We are looking at a wide range of operations, and we are prepared if called upon to be engaged as we were in Libya.”