NATO and the fight against terrorism
A package of anti-terror measures
NATO’s 1999 Strategic Concept includes acts of terrorism as one of the threats to the Alliance’s security. In line with this and with the decision by the NATO Council, following the attacks of 11 September 2001, to invoke Article 5 of the Washington Treaty for the first time in its history, the Alliance has increased its counter-terrorism efforts.
Since 2002, the Alliance has built up a host of military, as well as civilian, scientific and partnership capabilities and institutions. The aim is to be active in all fields in the fight against terrorism. Furthermore, the Alliance cooperates with other international organizations, in particular the United Nations, the EU and the OSCE, in order to support the international efforts against terrorism.
The continuation of Operation Active Endeavour (OAE), begun in 2001, in which NATO maritime task forces are protecting shipping routes in the Mediterranean against terrorist attacks, is considered to be a key contribution towards the fight against terrorism. The assumption of command of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan by NATO in August 2003, as well as the expansion of this stabilization operation to include the whole country in October 2006, help to ensure that Afghanistan does not become a safe haven for international terrorist groups again.
Moreover, the Alliance also makes its capabilities available for major public events in its member states, for example the Olympic Games in Athens in 2004. This is done at the request of the member state concerned.
Capabilities and structures
One key pillar in the Alliance’s fight against terrorism is the Defence against Terrorism Programme of Work (DAT POW) established by the Conference of National Armaments Directors in 2004. The Programme consists of projects in ten spheres in which new and innovative technologies are used to combat terrorist activities or to lessen their impact.
The main areas include: defence capabilities against attacks with chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear weapons, the provision of secure, modern command and intelligence technology, as well as the protection of critical infrastructure.
Crisis prevention also plays a role in NATO’s counter-terrorism concept. In the field of civil protection, the Alliance’s activities are based on the Civil Emergency Action Plan against chemical, biological, nuclear and radiological disasters. By reviewing this Action Plan, NATO has upgraded its capacity to coordinate and support national civil-protection measures.
In order to increase its effectiveness in the fields of reconnaissance and the exchange of information, in which terrorist threats are a special focus of the cooperation, NATO set up the Terrorist Threat Intelligence Unit in its headquarters, in which the intelligence data gathered by civilian and military services are coordinated.
“Defence against terrorism” is one of the two focal areas of NATO’s Science for Peace and Security programme with partner countries. Within the framework of this programme, scientists from NATO and partner countries work together on new technologies to detect chemical or biological agents which could be used in terrorist attacks. The research also includes the human and social aspects of terrorism.
In June 2005, the Centre of Excellence – Defence against Terrorism (COE – DAT) was set up in Ankara as part of a network of theme-related analytical and advisory bodies created to implement a decision taken at the Prague NATO Summit in 2002. Germany plays a financial role in the COE – DAT and supplies it with personnel. In May 2008, the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defense Centre of Excellence was established in Tallinn (Estonia) in order to combat the new threat posed by complex control and information systems, which is also of relevance to the fight against terrorism.
Cooperation with European partners
NATO is intensifying its cooperation in the field of counter-terrorism with other international organizations (among them the EU) and partners. For example, in December 2003 the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, based on the Partnership Action Plan against Terrorism (PAP-T) adopted in Prague, commissioned a specific implementation mechanism with which possibilities to engage in cooperation to combat terrorism (ranging from political consultations to the exchange of intelligence and enhanced cooperation in the spheres of civil protection) are to be extended and intensified.
NATO’s concept to enhance its Mediterranean Dialogue also envisages cooperation on the fight against terrorism through political consultations, the exchange of intelligence, as well as expert meetings on these issues.
Within the framework of the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative founded in 2004, NATO member states are striving to engage in greater security cooperation with countries south of the Mediterranean (Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Mauritania, Morocco, Tunisia and Israel), especially with a view to fighting organized crime and transnational terrorism.
Cooperation with Russia
A working group within the NATO-Russia Council analyses the threat posed by terrorists to the Euro-Atlantic area. This mainly involves threats to Russian and NATO armed forces and to civil aviation, as well as to threats posed by civil aircraft to critical infrastructure such as nuclear power stations. Common security challenges are regularly reviewed in the NATO-Russia Council.
In addition, an Action Plan on Terrorism envisages close cooperation in the fields of preventing and fighting terrorism, as well as the development of capacities to deal with any damage caused.
Last updated 06.01.2011