Page last updated at 20:18 GMT, Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Admiral named for key Nato post

Admiral James Stavridis - photo US Southern Command
Mr Gates praised Adm Stavridis for his work in Latin America

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates has recommended Admiral James Stavridis for the post of Nato supreme commander.

If nominated and confirmed, Adm Stavridis would become the first naval officer to hold the post.

Mr Gates described Adm Stavridis as "probably one of the best senior military officers we have".

But correspondents say appointing an admiral as the alliance prepares to step up its ground war in Afghanistan may cause concern in some quarters.

Last month US President Barack Obama approved an extra 17,000 US troops to boost a flagging campaign against the Taleban insurgency and help stabilise Afghanistan.

Energetic and creative

At one time a senior aide to former Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Adm Stavridis is currently head of US Southern Command, which oversees US military operations in Latin America.

He is seen as energetic and creative, working closely with civilian agencies in the region, correspondents say.

Adm Stavridis would replace Army Gen John Craddock, who is expected to retire.

Mr Gates also recommended that Adm Robert Willard, currently head of the US Pacific Fleet, should take over US military operations as a whole in Asia and the Pacific, Reuters news agency reported.

Adm Mike Mullen should remain as chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff for another term, he added.

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