Outgoing NATO commander slams Europe role in Afghanistan

1st July 2009, Comments 0 comments

The US general said European leaders often used critical public opinion "as an excuse not to forge ahead" in hotspots such as Afghanistan.

Berlin -- NATO's outgoing top commander, General John Craddock, had a few parting shots for Europe as he formally handed over his post on Tuesday, criticising the continent's engagement in Afghanistan.

In an interview to be published Wednesday in Germany's Stuttgarter Zeitung, the US general said European leaders often used critical public opinion "as an excuse not to forge ahead" in hotspots such as Afghanistan.

Taking aim in particular at Germany's mandate in Afghanistan which places restrictions on the use of military force, Craddock said: "Unfortunately we have far too many limitations in Afghanistan," in remarks published in German.

He said the debate over the use of military force was often driven by opinion polls among voters "regardless of whether they are informed or not."

Craddock said the German debate about whether the seven-and-a-half-year military engagement in Afghanistan amounted to a war was superfluous.

"The politicians can call it whatever they like. I am a military man and for me it is a war. And I think if you ask German soldiers they would call it the same thing."

Admiral James Stavridis took over from Craddock as head of the US European Command (EUCOM) at a ceremony Tuesday at its headquarters in the southwestern German city of Stuttgart attended by US Defence Secretary Robert Gates.

Stavridis, 54, was previously head of the US Southern Command, based in Florida.

Like his predecessor, Stavridis will assume command of US forces in the region at a particularly delicate time for NATO.

The alliance's credibility is being seriously tested by its engagement in Afghanistan, where extremist Taliban fighters are successfully spreading violence across the country ahead of presidential elections in August.

The position of supreme allied commander of NATO traditionally goes to an American.

AFP/Expatica

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