NATO INCREASES SUPPORT FOR COUNTRIES BATTLING ISLAMIC EXTREMISM

Washington Times on July 9, 2016, published an AP report on the Warsaw NATO summit. The allies agreed to provide increased military support to countries in the Middle East and North Africa that are targets of Islamic extremism, including using NATO surveillance planes in the fight against the Islamic State group. Excerpts below:

Alliance leaders also agreed to launch a new naval mission in the Mediterranean, and made commitments to maintain a stable military presence in Afghanistan and to fund Afghan security forces through 2020.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said NATO will start a training and capacity-building mission for Iraqi armed forces in Iraq, a country he called central in the fight against IS. NATO is also working to establish an intelligence center in Tunisia, a major recruiting ground for IS, and will shortly start providing support to Tunisian special operation forces.

Stoltenberg said Obama and leaders of the other 27 NATO countries also agreed in principle for alliance surveillance aircraft to provide direct support to the U.S.-led coalition fighting IS in Syria and Iraq. NATO diplomats say they expect flights by alliance AWACS planes to begin this fall and Stoltenberg labelled the move “a clear signal of our resolve to help tackle terrorism.”

He said the alliance will launch a new maritime operation in the Mediterranean called Operation Sea Guardian, whose responsibilities will include counterterrorism.

NATO will also cooperate with the European Union’s efforts to shut down human smuggling operations that have fueled Europe’s greatest migrant crisis since World War II.

The alliance will also increase cooperation with Jordan, and is preparing to help the new government in Libya design policies and institutions to help it better defend itself against extremist organizations, Stoltenberg said.

“We will provide greater support to our partners, so they can secure their countries and push back against violent extremism,” he said.

The U.S. has pledged to provide $3.5 billion annually to fund Afghan forces, and the government in Kabul is expected to contribute as much as $500 million. Allies would provide the remaining $1 billion. The funding would maintain a total of 352,000 Afghan Army troops and police officers.

“We are very close and I am certain we will reach that (funding) level,” Stoltenberg told reporters. A senior U.S. administration official said NATO has commitments for about 90 percent of the goal.

Stoltenberg said specific numbers will be finalized this fall, he said.

U.S. administration officials said they believe the number of forces dedicated to the NATO mission will be a bit more than 12,000. The officials were not authorized to discuss the details publicly, so spoke on condition of anonymity.

U.S. Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, the NATO supreme commander, told reporters the U.S. has pledged about 6,700 of that total, about 200 fewer than it currently provides.

Scaparrotti said the Afghan mission is key to global security.

“We know that there are al-Qaida and (Islamic State) components in Afghanistan,” he said. “If we fail there we will certainly see that impact in our global counterterrorism campaign that we’re executing. It will make it harder.”

The Warsaw summit, NATO’s first in two years, was considered by many to be the alliance’s most important since the Cold War.

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