NATO chiefs recommend joining coalition fighting Islamic State

By Andrew V. Pestano  |  May 18, 2017 at 1:58 PM
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May 18 (UPI) -- NATO's Chiefs of Defense have recommended the alliance formally enter the fight against the Islamic State as a full member of the international coalition, a top NATO official said.

After a meeting on Wednesday in Brussels, Gen. Petr Pavel, the committee's chairman, said NATO's Chiefs of Defense recommend that there is "some merit for NATO becoming a member" of the U.S.-led anti-Islamic State coalition, called the Combined Joint Task Force: Operation Inherent Resolve.

Though all NATO members also are individual members of the U.S.-led coalition, the NATO alliance is not formally a member. NATO could help train Iraqi forces and help build local institutions if it becomes a coalition member, Pavel said.

"If NATO is to step up their efforts in Iraq by individuals or tens or hundreds, I will not tell you at this point, but there is general agreement that NATO can, and should do more, especially by stepping up efforts in training, capacity building, institution building, exercises to increasing home capabilities," Pavel said. "That means the kinds of activities where NATO has not only good reputation but also a lot of expertise and experience."

Pavel said that while he would anticipate the NATO effort to be a "long-lasting activity" and a "long-lasting partnership" in Iraq, he does not "see it necessarily as kind of mission similar" to the NATO mission in Afghanistan, known as Resolute Support in which NATO trains, advises and assists Afghan security forces.

The meeting of top NATO officials comes before next week's meeting of the heads of state of member countries. Attending that meeting will be U.S. President Donald Trump, who has said NATO members must "pay their fair share" -- citing the NATO member commitment to spend 2 percent of GDP on defense that not all countries have met.

Trump in April said NATO was "no longer obsolete" after a White House meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg even though he repeatedly criticized the alliance as "obsolete" and said it didn't do enough to fight global terrorism during his campaign.

The U.S. Department of Defense said U.S. Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, NATO's supreme allied commander for Europe, on Wednesday said the alliance cannot sacrifice the future for the present.

"Looking forward we must maintain a strategic long-term view," Scaparrotti said. "We must have a sense of urgency coupled by a sense of endurance. Simultaneously, we must find the right way to make the best use of our current capacities to secure allies for challenges we face."

Scaparrotti said there is a need for unity within NATO.

"National, bilateral and collective alliance efforts must be integrated and mutually reinforcing," Scaparrotti said. "This is fundamental to our success."

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