The chief of staff of the French Air Force, Gen. Stéfane Abrial, has just been nominated to the commanding officer position for NATO’s Allied Command Transformation (via Jean-Dominique Merchet). The command is one of two that France secured in return for fully reintegrating NATO’s military command.
Three quick thoughts. First, according to his official bio (.pdf), Abrial spent a year as a student officer back in ’73 at the U.S. Air Force Academy, and another at the Air War College at Maxwell AFB in ’91. He’s also spent some time at NATO headquarters in Brussels. So part of this assignment has to do with his familiarity with the U.S. military and the alliance in general.
Second, he’s got some pretty spacious boots to fill, because the current commander of ACT is Gen. James Mattis.
Third, I can understand the appointment of U.S. Adm. John Stavridis as supreme commander of NATO, since the alliance is currently engagedin antipiracy missions off of Somalia. But the air force seems to be the military branch that’s the least relevant to the shifting nature of contemporary warfare towards asymmetric, ground-based conflicts. So unless we’re headed back to a Kosovo air war-type posture, the appointment of an air force guy to the command responsible for the strategic and doctrinal evolution of the alliance strikes me as an odd choice. I’m not familiar with Abrial, so he might be some sort of crusader hellbent on making air power more relevant to joint force operations. Still, I’m surprised this wasn’t given to an army or expeditionary commander.