Terrorism is a predominant issue on the agendas of global leader’s in the 21st century. The US and its allies consider terrorism as a top priority, primarily due to the 9/11 attacks on the US. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) consists of the US, Canada, and 23 other European allies. Defence against terrorism became an official NATO policy as result of the increased threat of terrorism on alliance members. Therefore, it is critical to understand NATOs effectiveness in combating terrorism. A variety of different opinions have been put forward of whether NATO is effective in combating terrorism. This essay will prove that NATO is not effective in combating terrorism because its role is a minor one that other organizations and states have led existing efforts in, it also does not have the military capabilities to effectively combat terrorism. In doing so, the essay will show the difference in NATO policy and Americas policy to NATO which control NATO role and supply of troops and equipment.

The US advocated the seriousness of terrorism to NATO in the late 1990’s following Attacks in Saudi Arabia in 1996 followed by Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, But was not foreseen as an immediate threat to NATO and its members until the 9/11 attacks on the US. Consequently NATO adjusted its position, declaring on September 12th, 2001 that combating terrorism is an official policy, its policy emphasized that their goals are to “help deter, defend, disrupt, and protect against terrorist attacks.” Hence, the alliances use of military power to increase defensive measures, increase cooperation between military and non-military forces, manage consequences in the events of attacks against member states, and initiate offensive counterterrorism. (Nevers, 38)

Understanding terrorism is crucial in understanding NATOs effectiveness in combating terrorism. Frequently, terrorist acts are committed to strike a state of fear in the audience of the victims. (Byman) That is for one to be a terrorist; one’s committed act must be politically motivated, directed towards non-combatants, and committed by a sub-national group, whereas, a sovereign state cannot be declared as a terrorist. (Nevers, 34) To effectively combat terrorism, improvements in decreasing and limiting terrorist attacks must be seen. Nevertheless, it must go about destroying and disturbing the structure of what are considered terrorist organizations, using military power and striving to delegitimize the groups cause by winning the hearts of the people, in doing so, they limit terrorist’s ability to recruit and further attack.

In brief NATO plays a support role to US missions towards terrorism while not part taking or leading any attacks on possible terrorist’s targets. At the turn of the century, NATO perceived reducing the vulnerability, while enhancing their counter-terrorism capabilities as their obligation to its members in the war on terrorism. On the contrary, the US stated that NATO’s role in the war is to insure intelligence sharing between allies, provide assistance upon request, secure key facilities, and provide a blanket for over-flight clearance. The US avoided any involvement from NATO in leading the counter-terrorism campaign.(Brown)

The role of NATO in combating terrorism is nevertheless symbolic (Brown), as a supporting actor to the US in its war on terrorism. NATO initiatives such as intelligence sharing have been carried out by existing organizations. In this case, since 1996 Europol has been cooperating with Interpol to insure terrorist intelligence sharing is promoted through the creation of its directory of Specialised Counter-terrorist unit with a great deal of success, a larger budget for development and a greater experience. Additionally, the outlined mission proposals for NATO by the US are the same initiative taken by the UN in combating terrorism. The UN in its post-9/11 terrorism policy adopted the same initiatives mandated by the US of NATO. (Brown) It is evident that NATOs role is only of a supporting symbolic actor in the US’s war on terrorism. Take the case of two of NATOs most successful missions; the security of elections in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Both missions conducted by NATO were under the mandates of the UN and the US. (Brown) On the contrary, NATO’s 26 ranging members are all members of the UN, and could be directly integrated through the UN without NATO involvement.

While NATO members continue to increase, it is not the case with members’ commitments to fighting terrorism and troop supply. As NATO continues to be actively involved through military engagements in combating terrorism, it requires a proper supply of suggested manpower and equipment by its members. These requirements are pivotal in insuring the success of these missions. While NATOs members continue to increase, it is not the case with troop supply and commitment to fighting terrorism. A shortage of troops is observed, constraining and limiting the effectiveness of NATOs efforts. NATO commander David Richards states that NATO has been experiencing “difficulties in employing troops away from their normal AOs (Areas of Operation), both in their deployment and sustainment.” Members of NATO operate troops under “national caveats”; these are limits set by each government on the distribution of troops and military activities involved in combat outside their own state. (Nevers, 51) These constrains limit the speed and flexibility of missions operated, while greatly effecting one of NATOs goals in having effective consequence management. (Richards) As a result of troop constraints, NATOs mission in Afghanistan is experiencing the lowest per-capita troop supply internationally. NATO troops are one soldier per 1,115 civilians and one per 25.0 km, while they experience stronger and more frequent resistance. (Ifantis, 576) As the terrorist resilience increases with a shortage of troops it goes on to show the ineffectiveness of NATO in combating terrorism.

NATOs success through military action is constrained under its resources. The resources provided by its members limit NATOs missions towards terrorism based on what is available. The lack of effective sources of supply, limit their involvement in high-intensity combat. (Johnson, Zenko) Consequently as a result, the US does not want any NATO involvement in control of command of battle field operations. Ultimately, the US settled for NATO to focus support to a more non-military or ancillary military in Afghanistan. Thus, American military supply to NATO is limited to what the US believes will compliment their missions. While the US contributes the majority of NATO equipment, European allies contribute significantly less and short of requested targets. “The shortage in some areas of logistic sustainability; rapidly deployable reserves; air assets (including MEDEVAC); and lifesaving electronic counter-measures (ECM) equipment, are examples of where we need to do better still.“(Richards) The contrast between American military spending and European spending is significant in American advantage. As a result European allies lack behind the US in military technology which makes for difficulties in NATO forces coalitions. The nature of the combat engagement in geographical locations such as Afghanistan, require advanced forms of technological weaponry. For instance, it requires engaging using long rang strikers to reach mountainous hiding spots of terrorists. European allies posses no long-rang strikers, while the US maintains over 150 such bombers in service. NATO commander Richards states that it “Denies commanders some of the freedoms they require to respond appropriately to developing situations.”(Richards)

Alternatively, containing Weapons of mass destruction (WMD) is of pivotal importance in combating terrorism. NATO strategy towards terrorism and the US’s assigned role to NATO highlight the control of WMD. (Nevers, 64) As NATO continues to increase its protection and preventive efforts towards WMD; many of the NATO initiatives consider combating WMD as a top priority. For instance, programs such as the Defence against Terrorism (DAT) are created to develop technologies to prevent such attacks as WMD. It also increases information gathering and trade between the allies to further combat and increase measures to do so. The DAT program compliments the post-9/11 creation of the Operation Active Endeavour (OAE), with the gathering of information by programs such as DAT the OAE operation initiates tasks to track merchant shipping throughout the Mediterranean sea to prevent the spread of WMDs. To respond to attack by WMD, NATO created a response force under pressure from the US. The US sponsored Defence Battalion (CBRN) boosts the latest technology available in chemical and biological attacks prevention, disease surveillance system and a deployable analytical laboratory. (Nevers, 65) These efforts are admittedly have been effective in accomplishing what NATO view as an effective measure in constraining WMD spread, and ultimately combating terrorism.

Notwithstanding, While NATO believes their initiatives towards combating terrorism through WMD containment are effective, but many obstacles stand in achieving their goals. In its OAE’s initiative to contain WMD’s through guarding the Mediterranean Sea, NATO are only allowed to board ships whose master and states allow under international law. Thus, it raises a question of how reliable such an operation is in containing WMD spread.(Nevers, 64) While NATO under US pressure believe that WMD is of major concern in combating terrorism, NATO European allies such as France, Germany, and the UK differ against the US’s stance. They don not believe it is as critical and therefore limit or disapprove suggested increases in NATO WMD budget.(Roberts) NATO strives to increase WMD information sharing and improving measures of prevention through policies and tactics, nevertheless the allies continue to act on individual bases or through bilateral and multilateral measures not involving NATO in their many efforts to tackle the issue. For example, in a recent proposition to deal with Iran’s WMD, the US and the three largest European NATO members dealt with the issue of possible weapon leaks to terrorists using the assistance of a European Union’s foreign policy chief with no NATO presentation or any involvement of some sort. (Roberts)

NATO has been committed to disturbing the financial support that insures the continuous growth of terrorist’s success. NATO strives to insure that governments support for terrorists groups within their states are nonexistent. For instance eliminating financial support from Afghanistan’s Taliban government to al Qaeda, by exchanging information between allies and governments through created intiative such as the Partnership Action Plan.(Hardouin, Weichardt)

This plan has increased NATOs awareness of terrorist financial activities through increased financial transactions mapping and studying different forms of moving and storing terrorist financial assets. (Hardouin, Weichhardt)

However, despite NATO efforts to eliminate financial support from governments and non-government supports to terrorist organizations, it is not very effective. Studies have shown that Terrorist groups use informal transfer systems that are extremely difficult in monitoring such as hawala and rely on cash smuggling, and organisations to launder money. As quoted by the NATO official the “ Financial flows linked to terrorist actions are often very low and remain below the thresholds of financial control mechanisms“. (Hardouin, Weichhardt) Yet, the ineffectiveness of NATO efforts is seen in the increase of frequency and levels of attacks by Taliban fighters. Taliban’s financial supports increase has caused an elevated scope of attacks as they can substantiate attacks on larger combat units of NATO forces.

In conclusion, this essay answered the question of how effective NATO is in combating terrorism, by showing that NATO is not effective in combating terrorism by showing that its role was a minor one that is taken up by other organizations and existing states, and NATO did not have the military capabilities to effectively combat terrorism. It also examined the effectiveness of NATO in combating terrorism through WMD containment and concluded its ineffectiveness because of the constraints on the tasks of WMD control. The essay also examined the impact of financial support to terrorist organizations and its effectiveness, it was concluded that it was ineffective because money trafficking of terrorist organizations is extremely difficult and the attacks on NATO in combat have not stopped, meaning financial supply is still evident.

In brief, combating terrorism is crucial, as terrorism continues to influence many of the political policies and changes that occur in the 21st century. These implications of change are a result of a state of fear that is deliberately imputed into our society. As an alliance of global leaders, NATO could influence a great deal of change and play a crucial part in insuring its allies are safely harboured from terrorism. A positive sign is NATOs continues growth in membership as it shows a global agreement on their initiatives. Yet, NATO must improvise their strategy to insure its policies and goals are agreed upon by its increased number of memberships.  It must also insure its members follow up on their promises to contribute financially and militarily to the alliance as it continues to expand its missions. These missions must also consider longer term development of countries that are considered to harbour potential terrorists. In the future, research could be put into whether NATO existence is going to last or not, and the effects of finance on NATO and its initiatives.

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de Nevers, Renée.”NATO’s International Security Role in the Terrorist Era.” International Security 31.4(2007):34-66. Scholars Portal search. Scholars Portal. Western Libraries, London, ON. 16 Feb.2008<http://search1.scholarsportal.info/ids70/>

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Richards, David. “NATO in Afghanistan: Transformation on the Front Line.” RUSI Journal 151(2006).4:10-15. Proquest Research Library. Proquest. Western Libraries, London, ON. 28 Feb.2008<http://proquest.umi.com/pdqweb>.

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