Center for Strategic Decision Research


Future Tasks and Challenges for AFNORTH

General Joachim Spiering
CINC, Allied Forces Northern Europe

In March of this year, the new headquarters Allied Forces North Europe came into being following the disbandment of Headquarters Allied Forces Central Europe (AFCENT) and Allied Forces Northwestern Europe (AFNORTHWEST). This new command is significantly different, encompassing an area stretching from northern Norway to the Alps, and incorporating nine of the sixteen European Alliance nations. In addition, this new Area of Responsibility incorporates a large and important maritime area with vital sea lines of communication. The inclusion of Poland and the Czech Republic increases the size of the land and air elements as well.

The Northern Region is stable and rich in industry and resources. It can still call upon considerably well-trained and well-equipped military forces. For historical reasons, the Region has the most sophisticated command-and-control systems with highly developed lines of communication. Reasonably, in these days only the Baltic Region and nuclear environmental problems, particularly the northeastern area adjacent to our area of responsibility, could present us with a crisis in the foreseeable future.

By comparison to this, the Southern Region has been facing a number of threats, crises, and recent conflicts adjacent to its Area of Responsibility. This situation is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future and thus non-Article 5 Crisis Response Operations are the Alliance’s immediate focus. Therefore, in the existing strategic environment, regional command AFNORTH has been functioning as the Supporting Command for the Southern Region and as the primary force provider—as SFOR and KFOR clearly illustrate.The Northern Region is—to a certain degree—the strategic turntable for the Alliance. Notwithstanding that, AFNORTH must remain capable of meeting the full spectrum of missions, from being prepared to provide Article 5 Collective Defense to being prepared for employment in non-Article 5 Crisis-Response Operations beyond our own and indeed NATO’s area of responsibility.

Looking at our missions and taking Article 5 collective defense first: it remains our raison d’être. While over the past six years eyes have been focused on Crisis Response Operations in the Balkans, we must not forget that we need to retain the war-fighting capability to conduct Article 5 Collective Defense operations. Maintaining the right balance between Article 5 and non-Article 5 operations in our exercise programs is challenging, but it is a challenge that must be recognized and met. In November of this year, we will be conducting Exercise CONSTANT HARMONY 2000 which is a major region-wide Article 5 Collective Defense Exercise. This will be the first time that the new command-and control structure within the Region will have been tested.

Non-Article 5 crisis-response continues to be AFNORTH’s primary operational focus with our support of ongoing operations in the Balkans. For example, during the second half of 1999, Headquarters AFCENT, as a supporting command, trained and mounted KFOR Headquarters 2 by using Headquarters LANDCENT (now Joint Headquarters Center) as a nucleus staff. We also assisted AFSOUTH to prepare Headquarters EUROCORPS for their deployment to Kosovo as Headquarters KFOR 3. Currently, we continue to provide manpower and equipment to SFOR and KFOR from the Regional Headquarters and from throughout the Region. However, while AFNORTH’s major role is currently in supporting non-Article 5 Crisis Response Operations, a more significant contribution as an Operational Headquarters should not be discounted.

Our role as one of three Combined Joint Task Force (CJTF) parent Headquarters requires us to be able to deploy a command-and-control capability to conduct combined and joint crisis operations with forces from NATO and non-NATO nations anywhere on the fringes of NATO’s Area of Responsibility. Trials and exercises to date have given us an initial capability, but the concept itself is still under development and we will lack some necessary equipment. We are working closely together with SHAPE and AFSOUTH on this matter, but much remains to be done.

Partnership for Peace is an excellent and highly successful vehicle for the promotion of stability and cooperation beyond our Area of Responsibility. Our regional focus is principally on the states adjacent to our region, particularly around the Baltic, where our aim is to maximize consultation and cooperation with our Partner nations. While this may help prepare some nations for eventual membership in NATO, it helps all nations improve their interoperability in preparation for participating alongside NATO nations in Crisis Response Operations in the Balkans and elsewhere. In the year 2000 alone, seven major exercises and thirty-five other activities are planned for AFNORTH, all leading to an enhanced and more operational Partnership for Peace program.

To sum up, the Northern Region faces a broad spectrum of challenges. We must continue to support real-world operations in the Balkans, yet not lose sight of the crucial importance to the Alliance of Article 5 operations. In so doing, we need to accord corresponding value to the retention of our war-fighting capabilities. We must also be open for development in ESDI and be prepared to take over any mission enlargement that this may hold in store for us.

And last the Partnership for Peace Program. It remains an influential and mutually beneficial way of promoting stability and cooperation throughout our adjacent areas.






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