NATO special forces unit gets new home
By JOHN VANDIVER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 12, 2012
NATO’s special operations community took up residence Wednesday in a new headquarters in Mons, Belgium, a $19 million facility expected to bolster how special forces from across the alliance plan for missions from Afghanistan to the Horn of Africa.
“I look for NATO Special Operations Headquarters to be the centerpiece of our ability to conduct special operations in this 21st century,” said Adm. James Stavridis, Supreme Allied Commander Europe, according to comments provided by his Public Affairs office during the official opening of the headquarters. “You will be the flagship operation.”
Since its inception in 2006, the NATO Special Operations Forces Headquarters has grown, highlighting the increasingly important role of special operations within the alliance.
The new facility, located at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe’s campus in Mons, will provide deployed troops with “cutting-edge” communications capabilities, according to the alliance.
During Wednesday’s opening ceremony, which also was attended by NATO Special Operations Headquarters commander Lt. Gen. Frank Kisner, Stavridis said the headquarters should serve as a hub for ideas.
“To achieve security in the 21st century, we have to connect. We must connect defense, diplomacy, development and law enforcement ... all the agencies of government,” Stavridis said. “This must be a venue for ideas about what we use to accomplish our missions.”
Currently, about 200 people are working in the headquarters, representing 26 NATO nations as well as Austria, Finland and Sweden. NATO also has extended invitations to four other non-NATO countries to send personnel to the headquarters: Australia, Ireland, New Zealand and Switzerland.
While details about NATO special operations deployments are often classified, missions of prime focus include supporting troops in Afghanistan, counter-piracy operations and a variety of intelligence gathering efforts, according to NATO.
The Special Operations Headquarters was a product of NATO’s 2006 Riga Summit, where the goal was to increase the ability of troops from different nations to effectively operate together in the field.