History

Brief Overview

Originally, 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.

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Beginnings

The Atlantic Alliance had a difficult birth. Even with the evidence of a visible common threat - the Soviet expansionism - it was not easy to overcome old attitudes between nations with different cultures, traditions, political inclinations, and who had been in some cases enemies during the recent world conflict. The task of creating an effective defensive alliance in which these nations were to maintain their full individual sovereignty was very demanding. It is said that the closest known precedent was dated some 24 centuries before, when the ancient Greeks formed the "amphiktionia," confederacies of towns governed by a council of delegates which had responsibility over a large spectrum of common decisions.


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Cold War

The year 1956 was full of events which significantly influenced the geostrategic situation in Europe. In February, the opening of the 20th congress of the Soviet Communist Party marked the beginning of the "destalinizations." In March, both Tunisia and Morocco became independent. In July, the President of Egypt Gamal Abd El Nasser nationalised the Suez Canal. In October, the Hungarian people's rebellion started, repressed by a Soviet intervention. Almost simultaneously the Suez crisis was escalated by the Israeli "Sinai campaign" followed by the French-British intervention, which was not approved by the U.S. The Alliance's solidarity seemed to reach the lowest level just as the Cold War was reaching a peak.

The following years saw a growing Soviet political penetration in the Mediterranean, while Western influence in North Africa and the Middle East was noticeably reduced. Cyprus became independent in 1960, followed by Algeria in 1962. Although the discussions between President Eisenhower and Mr. Khrushchev at Camp David in September 1959 had seemed to open the door toward further negotiations, the downing of a U.S. U-2 aircraft over Russian territory caused the next summit to abort. The construction of the Berlin wall in 1961 was a further contribution to increased tension. More

Transitions

A change in Malta's foreign policy was the origin of a major change in AFSOUTH's organisation. Acceding to a request by the Maltese government and following an Italian invitation, NAVSOUTH was moved to Naples in 1971, to facilities on the little island of Nisida previously occupied by the Italian Air Force Academy. Notwithstanding the withdrawal of the headquarters from Malta, NATO signed a seven-year agreement with that government on the use of certain facilities.

Another period of serious tension in the Mediterranean made evident the need for NATO Allies to keep a close watch on events which, even if not in the area covered by the Treaty, were taken by the Soviets as opportunities for military build-up. During the Yom-Kippur War, in October 1973, Soviet Navy units in the Mediterranean were doubled, reaching a peak close to l00 units. More

The Balkans

The situation which significantly marked the life and future of AFSOUTH were the events following the collapse of the Yugoslav Federation and eventually the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina. NATO's involvement began with a political statement made in February 1992, calling on all parties to respect cease-fire arrangements in order to allow deployment of United Nations peacekeepers. In July, the United States launched the operation "Provide Promise," to deliver supplies to Bosnia-Herzegovina.

On 10 July 1992 the Foreign Ministers of the North Atlantic Alliance discussed, at Helsinki, the NATO contribution to the monitoring of sanctions mandated by the United Nations Security Council Resolutions. Welcoming the Western European Union's (WEU) Ministers' decision to establish a naval monitoring force, they agreed on a corresponding NATO force to be drawn from NATO's Standing Naval Force Mediterranean. They also required the NATO force to act in close co-operation and co-ordination with the Western European Union naval force. Another ‘first' for NATO was to take place in the southern region. More

Turn of the Century

While Balkan operations were the focus of the attention of AFSOUTH planners and operators, the Headquarters could not lose sight of other important events which marked the year of NATO's 50th Anniversary. 1999 was indeed a year of great changes within the Alliance. New members were admitted and a new military command structure took shape.

AFSOUTH held an official Accession Ceremony of the new NATO members – the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland -- on 17 March 1999. With formal accession, Hungarian military personnel were integrated in the AFSOUTH staff, while Hungary became member of the Southern Region and part of AFSOUTH's area of responsibility. A few weeks later, another milestone was marked on the road towards adapting the NATO military arm to its new roles More


 

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