BRUSSELS, Sept. 29 (UPI) -- NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen bid farewell to NATO members and NATO staff as he prepares to step down Tuesday.
At a ceremony in Brussels on Friday to mark the end of his five-year term, Fogh Rasmussen acknowledged the soldiers who comprise NATO forces as "the backbone of our Alliance" and laid a wreath in honor of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice at the NATO Memorial to the Fallen. He thanked member states and staff for their contributions during what he described as "the busiest and most challenging years for NATO."
"We have reinforced the Alliance to make it fitter, faster and more flexible," noted the outgoing secretary general.
During his tenure, Fogh Rasmussen oversaw the completion of the NATO-led ISAF mission following handover of security responsibility to Afghan security forces. In 2012, he endorsed the Smart Defense initiative to stream line collaboration and maximize limited resources, and supported the Connected Forces Initiative to increase joint and combined military training and exercises among Alliance states.
In 2014, Fogh Rasmussen advocated for more robust collective defense in the face of Russian aggression toward Ukraine and the rise of Islamic extremism in the Middle East. And in September, at the Wales Summit, NATO members adopted a Readiness Action Plan to improve the Alliance's responsiveness to threats and enhance international cooperation.
Fogh Rasmussen will be succeed by former Norwegian Prime Minister Jen Stoltenberg, who assumes the position of NATO secretary general on Wednesday.