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France takes over key NATO command post

USA: France on Wednesday takes over a top NATO post, the first time in the military alliance's 60-year history that one of its supreme commanders is from a country other than the United States.

French Air Force general Stephane Abrial takes over from James Mattis, a marine general who is the current commander of US Joint Forces Command (USJFCOM) and Supreme Allied Commander Transformation for NATO.

"It's the first time in NATO history that one of its supreme commands is entrusted to a non-American," said Abrial, who takes over the post during a ceremony in Norfolk, Virginia.

His naming, Abrial said, has "enormous symbolic value" as he acknowledged "the importance of France within the alliance," along with the appreciation among it allies of Paris's "military know-how and experience."

Abrial takes up his duties following a change of command ceremony to be held at Headquarters Supreme Allied Command Transformation in Norfolk.

Mattis, who held the post for a little less than two years, previously served as commanding general of the I Marine Expeditionary Force and Commander, US Marine Forces Central Command. Abrial's appointment follows the naming of another Frenchman, General Philippe Stolz, to Commander of the Allied Joint Command Lisbon, and affirms Paris's place back in the center of the alliance's command structure.

The historic change in NATO command comes with the alliance at a crossroads. Rather than focusing on Cold War security, as it did at its founding, troops from the 26-nation coalition today focus largely on counter-terrorism and peacekeeping. NORFOLK, Wednesday, AFP

 

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