August 25th, 2006 02:26 EST
U.S. military shifts responsibility for Lebanon to European Command
The planned transfer of responsibility of U.S. military operations associated with Lebanon from the U.S. Central Command to the U.S. European Command (EUCOM) has taken place, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.
As of August 23 EUCOM’s Joint Task Force-Lebanon has replaced the CENTCOM’s Task Force-59. The Lebanon task force was formed to assist in any humanitarian activities and support requests from U.S. Embassy Beirut and the State Department to aid the Lebanese people as they recover from a month of conflict. (See related article.)
Navy Vice Admiral John “Boomer” Stufflebeem, commander of the 6th Fleet, has been assigned to head up JTF-Lebanon. Stufflebeem said his command will execute whatever humanitarian assistance is needed by the embassy or the department. His task force has more than 2,400 military personnel as well as ships and aircraft ready to respond.
Stufflebeem met with the U.S. ambassador to Lebanon in Beirut on August 21. Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman indicated he expected the transition to be seamless.
The shift of responsibility for Lebanon from CENTCOM to EUCOM was an easy transition because the European command was supporting CENTCOM as it prosecuted the war on terrorism, and it already was handling matters relating to Lebanon’s neighbor, Israel.
The Central Command has been focused on supporting military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq dating back to 2001.
The decision reflects ongoing military transformation efforts within the Department of Defense as well as in the NATO. Just as NATO has become involved in support, training and peacekeeping operations outside its traditional geographic area of expertise in places such as Afghanistan, so too has the European Command. EUCOM has become increasingly involved in locations as far away as the Horn of Africa. (See related article.)
General James Jones, who heads EUCOM and also is NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, said the reorganization makes sense for the Mediterranean region.
Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon on August 17 before the transfer of command authority, Jones said another reason for the shift was the expected additional contributions of peacekeeping troops from European countries to the enhanced United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon in Southern Lebanon.
With NATO and U.S. naval forces in Europe planning to support air and sealift requirements for the augmented U.N. peacekeeping force, Jones said it made sense for responsibilities associated with Lebanon to fall to EUCOM.
For more information about U.S. policy, see International Security and the Middle East and North Africa.
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)