U.S. nominates Breedlove as top NATO commander

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama nominated U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlove on Thursday to become NATO's top military commander, a key role as NATO aims to wind down an 11-year-old combat mission in Afghanistan that has tested the resolve of allies.

Breedlove, whose nomination was widely expected and endorsed by ambassadors from the 28 NATO allies, would succeed Admiral James Stavridis as NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Europe. His appointment requires U.S. Senate confirmation.

U.S. Marine General John Allen, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan and was caught up and later cleared in the scandal that forced CIA chief David Petraeus to resign, was originally nominated for the NATO job. He announced last month he would retire and forgo his nomination because of his wife's health.

Breedlove is currently the commander of U.S. Air Force units in Europe and Africa and a former Air Force vice chief of staff.

"General Breedlove has established trust and deep relations with our NATO allies and partners - assets he will draw upon in taking on this important new role on behalf of the United States and the Alliance," Obama said in a statement.

During his long military career, Breedlove also commanded a fighter squadron, an operations group and three fighter wings, according to a biography on the U.S. Air Force website.

(Reporting by Adrian Croft in Brussels, Phil Stewart and Steve Holland in Washington; Editing by Richard Meares and Paul Simao)