NATO Leaders Agree to Beef Up Terrorism Defenses
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
ISTANBUL, Turkey, Jun. 30, 2004 NATO leaders agreed this week to improve intelligence cooperation and to develop new, high-tech defenses against terrorism.
The 26 heads of state and government meeting here for the NATO Istanbul Summit agreed on an enhanced package of measures against terrorism. This includes dedicating more resources to the alliance's terrorist threat intelligence unit to improve intelligence sharing.
The unit -- created in September 2001 after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon -- will now become a permanent organization that analyzes terrorist threats against alliance members and partners. The leaders at the summit reaffirmed NATO's commitment to help any member country deal with potential or real terrorist attacks.
Among resources at a member nation's disposal are NATO's AWACS early warning radar aircraft and the alliance's Chemical Biological Radiological and Nuclear Defense Battalion.
During a June 28 session with defense ministers, Marine Corps Gen. James L. Jones, supreme allied commander Europe, called the multinational battalion "a vivid example of how NATO is addressing the new threats posed by weapons of mass destruction."
Leaders at the summit also gave the green light to develop a package of high- tech capabilities to protect both civilians and military forces against terrorist attacks. This will include defenses against weapons of mass destruction and protection of wide-body aircraft against shoulder-launched missiles and helicopter blades from ground threats. Also included will be reinforced protection of harbors and vessels, improved mine-detection capabilities and countermeasures for improvised explosive devices and other homemade bombs.
NATO leaders pointed out that these new measures build on what the alliance already is doing through its operations. These include NATO's activity in Afghanistan and this week's decision to expand that responsibility to include five more provincial reconstruction teams and continuing surveillance patrols in the Eastern Mediterranean. That effort, Operation Active Endeavor, involves escorting civilian shipping through the Straits of Gibraltar and boarding suspicious vessels. Also, NATO peacekeeping forces continue operations against terrorist groups with links to the al Qaeda network in the Balkans.
While supporting these initiatives, the NATO leaders agreed that terrorism continues to threaten the alliance and reaffirmed their commitment work together to fight it.
"Collective defense remains the core purpose of the alliance. But the threats NATO faces have changed substantially, to include terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction," the leaders agreed in the June 28-issued Istanbul Declaration. "North America and Europe faced these threats together. We are determined to address effectively the threats to our territory, forces and populations from wherever they come."