Stavridis will double as head of US European Command as well as Supreme Allied Commander of NATO – a post once held by Gen. Dwight Eisenhower. His first task is to work with NATO allies on Afghanistan.
European countries are still reluctant to send more troops to Afganistan. But there's some "wiggle room" in what they are willing to do there, says Constanze Stelzenmüller, director of the Berlin office of the German Marshall Fund, which promotes transatlantic relations. If Stavridis plays it right, she adds, he might be able to get them to loosen some of the restrictions that govern the Afghanistan mission.
"It's a huge opportunity," says Ms. Stelzenmüller. But moving the admiral to Europe has to be more than window dressing, she warns. "Stavridis can't just stick new labels on old policies and expect Europeans to go along. But if he listens and asks for ideas, he can expect a lot of goodwill."
The nomination appears to be part of a softening of the American military approach overseas as the US attempts to reclaim its standing in the world. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is sending additional diplomatic officers to Afghanistan, and Obama and Congress have called for a three-fold increase in the amount of nonmilitary aid to Pakistan.