By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service
DEAUVILLE, France, June 8, 2014 – Even with the winding down of the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, NATO's supreme allied commander for Europe says Afghanistan, along with Ukraine, remain among his top priorities.
In an interview with American Forces Press Service, Air Force Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, who also commands U.S. European Command,said his first priority since assuming his command 13 months ago has been “to get Afghanistan right.”
He made the comments while in France for the 70th anniversary D-Day commemoration and just days after President Barack Obama announced all U.S. forces will leave Afghanistan by the end of 2016, bringing to an end a U.S. military mission that began in response to the 9/11 attacks.
At this point, Breedlove said, there is a “big focus” on what to do for the last seven months of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force mission that will be very important through Operation Resolute Support, the mission that begins thereafter.
“We’re working now through the [operations plan,] which we’ll literally deliver this week to the North Atlantic Council,” he added.
The general said his second priority had been transitioning the alliance to moreof a peacetime role. But then the Ukraine situation came about before that could happen. “Now we see a very bellicose neighbor -- a nation that we thought was going to be a partner -- now not acting like a partner,” he said.
That also has led to setbacks in attempts to build bridges to Russia, the general noted. “We’re going to eventually have to find a way to get along in a trust relationship with Russia," he saiad. "That clearly has not happened.”
Part of the current challenge, Breedlove said, has been efforts to calm Russia’s neighbors in light of Moscow’s intervention in Ukraine and its annexation of Crimea.
“We’ve seen NATO specifically take on this program of reassurance measures which has been very, very successful in reassuring our partners and allies,” he said.