9/11: Ten years on
On 11 September 2001, the world watched in shock and horror as New York’s World Trade Center Towers were reduced to rubble by terrorists, using civilian passenger jets as weapons of mass destruction. The day after the attacks, NATO Allies expressed their solidarity with the people of the United States by invoking Article 5 of the Washington Treaty. NATO’s collective defence clause states an attack on one Ally is an attack upon all Allies.
Since the attacks on New York and on the Pentagon a decade ago, the fight against terrorism has been high on the agendas of NATO and the international community. Subsequent attacks in Allied countries and around the world have underlined the global nature of the threat of terrorism, a modus operandi which recognizes no borders, nationalities or religions and which does not distinguish between combatants and innocent civilians.
The attacks were the catalyst for fundamental changes in the Alliance and continue to impact the way it operates today. “This shift proved to be more significant in ensuring NATO’s future relevance than any other change it has undergone in its history,” says Ambassador Gabor Iklody, Assistant Secretary General of NATO’s Emerging Security Challenges Division.
Over the past decade, the nature of terrorist attacks has evolved with new technologies and changes in the security environment. The unpredictable, cross-cutting nature of emerging 21st century security challenges, such as cyber defence, energy security and weapons proliferation, needs to be addressed in a dynamic way. Strategies must take into account the fact that those who use terror as a means to pursue their aims have the capacity to learn quickly and to adapt their tactics unpredictably.
NATO is committed to confronting the constantly evolving terrorist threat and will review its approach to counter terrorism at the next summit meeting in Chicago in May 2012. An important step has already been taken with the creation of the Emerging Security Challenges Division within NATO Headquarters in August 2010. The move to create a dedicated division shows that Nations recognize the fact that terrorism and other emerging security challenges are often inter-related. For the first time, the Alliance has systematically brought together expertise in non-traditional areas that in the years ahead will increasingly affect the security of the Allies on both sides of the Atlantic.