Allied Forces Southern Europe was one of two major NATO commands in the
Mediterranean area, the other being Allied Forces Mediterranean based
on the island of Malta, responsible for naval activities in the region.
Some of the first exercises of the new command took place in 1952.
Operation Ancient Wall was a series of military manoeuvers involving
ground small unit tactical training, land-based tactical air support,
and carrier-based air support.
The drawdown of the British Mediterranean Fleet, the military
difficulties of the politically-decided command structure, and the
withdrawal of the French from the military command structure forced a
rearrangement of the command arrangements in the southern region. Allied
Forces Mediterranean was disbanded on 5 June 1967, and all forces in
the south and the Mediterranean assigned to AFSOUTH.
The Commander-in-Chief of Allied Forces Southern Europe has always been a
United States Navy Admiral, based at Naples, who also holds the
national appointment of Commander-in-Chief United States Naval Forces
From 1967 the overall shape of AFSOUTH did not significantly change
until the command was renamed in 2004. There were five principal
subordinate commands (PSCs).The number rose to six when Greece was
taking part in the military structure; Greece withdrew from the NATO
military structure after the Turkish military action in Cyprus in 1974,
and after some behind the scenes negotiating by NATO officials, returned
in October 1980.
Two land commands, Allied Land Forces Southern Europe and Allied Land
Forces Southeastern Europe, were tasked to defend Italy and Turkey
respectively. Each was directly responsible to Commander-in-Chief,
AFSOUTH, and supported by a tactical air force, 5th Allied Tactical Air
Force in Italy and 6th Allied Tactical Air Force in Turkey. The two
allied tactical air forces were under an overall air command, Allied Air
Forces Southern Europe, headquartered at Naples in Italy under a United
States Air Force officer, ComAirSouth, responsible himself to
Due to political considerations, command of the naval forces in the
region was split. Allied Naval Forces Southern Europe, at Naples,
operated most of the NATO allies naval forces in the Mediterranean under
an Italian admiral. But due to the U.S. desire to retain control of
their nuclear-armed naval forces, the United States Sixth Fleet reported
directly to CinCAFSOUTH, supported by a separate headquarters named
Naval Striking and Support Forces Southern Europe or STRIKFORSOUTH. The
sixth command was an Allied command responsible for the land defence of
Greece, named Allied Land Forces South-Central Europe or LANDSOUTHCENT.
Below these PSCs were smaller headquarters such as Maritime Air Forces,
Mediterranean, at Sigonella, Sicily, responsible for coordination of the
aerial anti-submarine effort, Submarine Forces, South, and the Naval
On-Call Force Mediterranean, a multinational escort squadron activated
From 1992 AFSOUTH was heavily involved in NATO operations in the
Balkans, initially with NATO seaborne enforcement of a UN arms embargo,
Operation 'Maritime Monitor,' which began in July 1992. This operation
was fused with a similar Western European Union effort and thus became
Operation Sharp Guard from July 1993. AFSOUTH also directed activities
such as Operation Deny Flight from AIRSOUTH headquarters in Italy.
Commander-in-Chief AFSOUTH directed the NATO peacekeeping missions in
Bosnia & Herzegovina, IFOR and SFOR, from December 1995.
The reorganisation of AFSOUTH as JFC Naples in 2004 was a part of NATO's
transformation, initiated by the Prague summit of 2002, aimed at
adapting the allied military structure to the operational challenges of
coalition warfare, to face the emerging threats in the new millennium.
The new NATO Command Structure is leaner, more flexible, and focused on
conducting a much wider range of missions.