Commanding IFOR in Bosnia thrust AFSOUTH into the forefront of NATO's
emerging strategic concept, making very clear the reinforced importance
of NATO forces in fostering peace and stability in Europe. It also
demonstrated NATO's ability to work side by side with non-NATO nations
and the importance of military alliances and coalitions in building
understanding and stability in an era of increased tensions and military
The importance of being capable of militarily
containing a crisis was shown by the results achieved by Operation
"Alba," conducted in Albania under Italian leadership. "Alba" included
nations which had shared with AFSOUTH the IFOR/SFOR experience. Since
turning over responsibility of IFOR, AFSOUTH headquarters refocused its
attention on the entire southern region. Briefly stated, its goals
included: increasing the political cohesion and operational
effectiveness within the southern region; improving the deterrent and collective defence capabilities of forces; developing crisis management and peace support operations capabilities and enhancing regional stability by dialogue and military co-operation.
A new perception had developed throughout NATO: the southern region embodied NATO's forward presence, with an area of responsibility that stretched west to east from the Atlantic approaches to the Mediterranean to the Black Sea and the Middle East coastline; and north to south from the Alps to the North African coast. This is an area almost surrounded by actual or potential instabilities.
In order to foster stability after the Bosnia experience, AFSOUTH started refocusing on dialogue and co-operation activities. These include port visits by STANAVFORMED to several non-NATO ports in the Mediterranean and Black Seas and a number exercises with NATO and Partnership for Peace (PfP) forces. In 1997 high level and staff working visits, training, exercises, seminars, conferences by AFSOUTH and principal subordinate commands involved 18 of NATO's 27 partner nations. In many cases these activities have opened new ground for co-operation. For instance,
In exercise "Co-operative Key '97," conducted in Slovakia several historic "firsts" for NATO were achieved:
- AFSOUTH conducted a close air support (CAS) mission in a peace support/PfP exercise;
- AFSOUTH exercised a multinational combined air operations centre for training purposes;
- AFSOUTH conducted CAS, airlift, search and rescue and medical evacuation training out of one command centre;
- The exercise had the largest participation of PfP nations; with 7 countries participating in 1996 and 11 countries in 1997.
In "Co-operative Neighbour ‘97:"
- The first full-fledged PfP exercise was conducted in Ukraine;
- AFSOUTH exercised/trained troops in executing missions related to peace support operations including planning and implementation of a peace plan, civil-military co-operation, humanitarian assistance, medical evacuation, mine awareness, convoy escorting procedures and air drop operations.
- Earlier in 1997, AFSOUTH conducted a very complex command-post exercise (Dynamic Action ‘97) from its Naples headquarters with NATO participation throughout the Mediterranean.
- Finally from 23 September to 9 October 1997, the largest live exercise ever conducted by AFSOUTH was held. Called "Dynamic Mix," it included the participation of Greece as a participant and a host for the first time since 1982.
On 10 April 1997 AFSOUTH became the first NATO command to establish a world-wide web address on the Internet.
AFSOUTH next expanded its horizons far beyond those of Cold War planning. The new strategic vision required a dynamic approach to regional challenges and a focus on promotion of regional economic, political and military stability. While exploiting co-operation and dialogue, AFSOUTH continued to prepare for new policy and missions, to include peace support, multinational coalition and crisis management operations.
The growing importance of AFSOUTH was reflected in NATO Secretary General Javier Solana's words during a visit at AFSOUTH on 5 December 1997: "As you know, a few days ago we have approved in Brussels, in a very important meeting, a new command structure for NATO. Without any doubt, I would like to underline that this headquarters, AFSOUTH, and this region, the Southern Region, will, in this new commanding structure, play a much more important role than in the past."
The year 1998 continued to see AFSOUTH committed in reasserting its regional role through a number of activities. These included field exercises, like "Dynamic Response," which brought a Strategic Reserve Force into Bosnia as a reminder of the overall power backing NATO forces in that country. A series of field and computer-assisted exercises – to include the Co-operative series within PfP - saw NATO forces deploying during the year throughout the region, from Spain to Turkey and into Partner nations.
The training program included another positive development towards improved interoperability within the region.
Exercise "Dynamic Mix ‘98" (DM98) showed AFSOUTH's military might in one of its largest annual training endeavours encompassing, for the first time since 1982, joint activities on the soil of the three southern region NATO nations (exercise DM 98 ran Oct. 1-21, in the host nations of Greece, Italy and Turkey with forces from 11 NATO nations including Canada, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, United Kingdom and U.S.). Approximately 5,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines were part of DM 98, along with 62 ships and 170 aircraft, under the direction of CINCSOUTH. Personnel, weapons and platforms were tested and trained in a variety of military operations, including a full amphibious off-load and back-load of the 2nd U.S. Marine Expeditionary Force (II MEF) at Iskenderun, Turkey. About 2,500 troops were involved, part of which -- about 400 marines and 61 vehicles -- were moved to a training area to conduct land operations and live fire training. Additional multinational amphibious operations were conducted off the Italian shores of Sardinia and at Doganbey in Turkey. In the hillsides of Northern Greece, members of the Greek 71st Infantry Brigade conducted a simulated humanitarian mission with other allied units. Meanwhile, Allied Land Forces Southern Europe conducted training in a peace support operation practising simulated assistance to 2,000 displaced persons, to include the build up of a refugee camp.