The newly retired Commander European Command and Supreme Allied Commander Europe spoke recently with Managing Editor Fred Schultz about the challenges he faced in that job, the caliber of today’s junior officers and enlisted, and the state of the U.S. Naval Institute, where he’ll be taking the helm as its Board Chair this summer. He has also just begun serving as Dean of The Fletcher School at Tufts University.
Proceedings: In light of the economic turmoil in Europe and its various ramifications, what were the biggest challenges you faced during the tour you just completed?
Stavridis: The number-one challenge was Afghanistan. And clearly, Afghanistan will continue to be a challenge for some time to come. I feel like we made a fair amount of progress—in particular, the buildup of Afghan security forces, which now number 350,000. In the civil sector, access to healthcare has gone from 10 percent to 65 percent of the population. There are now 16 million cellphones in Afghanistan. Most important, there are 9 million children in schools, 3.5 million of them girls. That’s a 16-fold increase.