Center for Strategic Decision Research


Current and Future Tasks of Headquarters Allied Forces Central Europe

General Joachim Spiering
CINC Allied Forces Central Europe

Because our current focus is on the Balkan region, I would like to briefly talk about the work that is ongoing at Headquarters Allied Forces Central Europe in Brunssum, the Netherlands. As Commander-in-Chief, my focus and first priority is to support the continuing NATO-led operations in the Balkans. In addition to the large contributions from the Central Region nations, 320 people from various NATO Headquarters from within my region augment the various staffs, and I expect this number to increase with the new Kosovo mission. This work in essence shows that the current Central, soon to be Northern, Region is the principal force provider and thereby the Alliance’s strategic turntable.

However, HQ AFCENT is decisively engaged in myriad other tasks as well, all vitally important to the future of NATO. Presently we are implementing the new NATO command structure whereby the current Headquarters Allied Forces Northwest at High Wycombe, England, and Allied Forces Central Europe will cease to exist, and will be replaced by Regional Headquarters Allied Forces NORTH in early March 2000. One of the key points to note about the new Regional HQ NORTH is that the new Area of Responsibility is four times the size of AFCENT’s current area—almost 7 million square kilometers. The maritime area of responsibility for the region has expanded from almost nothing to a substantial area, incorporating vital sea lines of communication. The land area has also increased significantly with the inclusion of Poland and the Czech Republic. The task of building an entirely new regional command has been, and continues to be, an increasingly detailed and complex task involving an entirely new personnel structure, Communications and Information Systems connectivity, and new infrastructure and training of assigned personnel for the new mission. Regional Headquarters AFNORTH and its five subordinate Headquarters will be ready to assume their new responsibilities by March 3, 2000.


The Combined Joint Task Force, or CJTF, Headquarters Concept is another area in which AFCENT is expending considerable effort. AFCENT has been at the forefront of CJTF HQ Concept development, and held the much-publicized first trial in November 1997. Since then, we have continued to contribute to the refinement of the concept in order to create a readily available crisis-response tool for NATO. We recently completed our second CJTF Exercise, COOPERATIVE GUARD 99, in Vyskov, Czech Republic, an exercise in which Partner nations worked alongside NATO personnel. Although we have achieved an initial CJTF Headquarters capability it will take us until 2005 to achieve the full desired End State as a Parent headquarters. This result is principally resource driven, since we need to obtain the necessary deployable Communication Information Systems and various headquarters support equipment such as mobile shelters as well as provide the necessary personnel to man them. The Headquarters Concept is not inexpensive, and the full support of all nations is required. However, it is an essential capability as we have learned from the Balkan situation. An effective CJTF HQ capability will help us avoid the ad hoc approach we have been forced to use to date.


We are now focusing on improving the interoperability of the new member-nations across the board. This undoubtedly will be a comprehensive and lengthy process and because of this we are approaching it in an incremental fashion. I have delegated single service aspects of the integration to my subordinate headquarters—for example, my air component headquarters located in Ramstein, Germany, is addressing the air interoperability of the Czech and Polish air forces—while my own headquarters maintains oversight of the entire process. Though it took us Germans, who were latecomers to NATO, ten years to fully integrate with the various levels of NATO, I sincerely hope we can improve upon that time with the new member-nations, but it is an enormous task.


As part of the PFP enhancement process, NATO is developing a more operational role for PFP nations. This will enable them, for example, to participate in a Crisis Response Operation alongside NATO nations. Some time ago at AFCENT we started to prepare our Partners for this important role. The CJTF Exercise COOPERATIVE GUARD 99 was another encouraging step in this direction.


Even during crisis operations, NATO must not lose sight of its comprehensive mission spectrum as outlined in the new Strategic Concept. This spectrum runs from peacetime engagement activities such as PFP to readily available crisis-response options such as CJTF to maintaining our capabilities for collective defense—all of which ultimately preserve security and enhance stability in the Euro-Atlantic area. In coming years, Headquarters AFCENT and the future Regional Headquarters AFNORTH will continue to take part in this work, which will be busy, very challenging, but also extremely rewarding.








Top of page | Home | ©2003 Center for Strategic Decision Research