Osman Yavuzalp describes how NATO members and Partner countries will be working together to combat terrorism.
Terror target: In the aftermath of 9/11, the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council pledged to combat the scourge of terrorism (© US DoD)
In the immediate wake of 9/11, the 46 members of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) — 19 NATO members and 27 Partner countries — unconditionally condemned the attacks on New York and Washington and pledged to undertake all efforts to combat the scourge of terrorism. At the Prague Summit, EAPC leaders made good this pledge by formally endorsing a Partnership Action Plan against Terrorism (Action Plan).
In signing up to the Action Plan, which was drawn up by NATO in close consultation with Partners, EAPC leaders recognised, above all, that all countries faced the same security challenges and that only by working together would they be able to combat them. Indeed, many Partner countries — especially those in Central Asia — have been victims of al-Qaida-sponsored terrorism and have already provided significant support to Allies for operations in Afghanistan by, for example, providing overflight rights and access to bases.
The Action Plan itself, which was published on the NATO web site during the Prague Summit, foresees the promotion and facilitation of cooperation among EAPC states in the fight against terror through political consultation and practical programmes under the auspices of the EAPC and the Partnership for Peace. As such, it is designed to benefit Allies and Partners alike.
Allies stand to gain because the Action Plan increases the opportunities and provides mechanisms for interested Partners to contribute to and support NATO's efforts in the fight against terrorism. Partner contributions will be consistent with their obligations under international law with respect to combating terrorism, and with the specific character of their security and defence policies.
Since NATO's interest in promoting Partnership transcends military goals, Allies also stand to gain if measures contained in the Action Plan to promote democracy and nurture cooperation among Partners are implemented. In this way, potential sources of instability and conflict in the Euro-Atlantic area should be reduced. Moreover, the five Western European neutral members of the EAPC — Austria, Ireland, Finland, Sweden and Switzerland — will likely be interested in joining such Allied efforts.
From the Partners' perspective, the Action Plan helps increase cooperation among them in combating the threat posed by terrorism. Clearly the Action Plan is not the first initiative of this kind. Similar cooperative initiatives already exist within, for example, the Commonwealth of Independent States — a body including most former Soviet Republics — and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation — a regional grouping including China, Kazakhstan, the Kyrghyz Republic, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. However, rather than undermining these structures, cooperation within the EAPC framework is complementary, since it benefits from the participation of NATO member states.
The Action Plan foresees the promotion and facilitation of cooperation among EAPC states in the fight against terror
The Action Plan may also serve as an instrument by which countries can share expertise and experience of combating terrorism with others. Article 9 of the Action Plan, for example, defines one of its key objectives as "to provide assistance to EAPC states in dealing with the risks and consequences of terrorist attacks". In this way, Allies and Partners which have developed particularly effective mechanisms for addressing this problem over the years, may provide mentoring programmes to countries seeking to improve their own anti-terrorist capabilities.
To take the Action Plan forward, focus has to be placed on the following areas in the coming months:
The Action Plan foresees the opportunity for Allies and Partners to consult regularly on shared security concerns related to terrorism. Moreover, it provides the possibility for Partners to seek, in accordance with agreed procedures, direct political consultations with NATO, either individually or in smaller groups, on concerns related to terrorism.
The development of an EAPC/PfP Intelligence Liaison Unit should enhance information sharing. In this context, the possibility of establishing permanent working contacts among intelligence agencies of interested EAPC countries and especially those in the Caucasus and Central Asia could prove particularly useful.
A number of Partners have expressed their wish to initiate or enhance cooperation with NATO in the area of border control. In this unique context, priority may need to be given to Partners from Central Asia, which, because of their geographic location, may require assistance to prevent illicit movement of personnel and material across international borders.
Procedures have to be agreed to cater for Partner support for and participation in NATO-led activities to enhance capabilities against WMD-related terrorism and share appropriate information and experience in this field.
Enhancing cooperation in civil-emergency planning
In connection with the previous point, Allies and Partners have to continue working together to improve civil preparedness for possible terrorist attacks with weapons of mass destruction. To this end, Allied leaders at the Prague Summit endorsed a Civil-Emergency-Planning Action Plan for the improvement of civil preparedness against possible attacks against the civilian population with chemical, biological or radiological agents. Moreover, one of the principal objectives of the Action Plan is for Allies, upon request, to provide assistance to EAPC states in dealing with the risks and consequences of terrorist attacks, including on their economic and critical infrastructure.
Information exchange about forces
Another channel to be explored in the short term is the exchange of information regarding forces responsible for counter-terrorism operations and the facilitation of contacts among them.
In total, 22 Partners, including the three Caucasus countries — Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia — and Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan in Central Asia, now participate in NATO's Planning and Review Process. In the wake of the decision to invite seven countries to begin NATO accession talks, the development of Partnership Goals aimed at improving the capabilities of these Caucasian and Central Asian countries will likely receive priority attention, since the Prague Declaration emphasises "further enhancing interoperability and defence-related activities, which constitute the core of Partnership".
Overall, the Action Plan is a robust document reflecting NATO-Partner solidarity in the face of the terrorist threat. It consists of both time-tested and innovative mechanisms to improve consultations and information sharing; enhance preparedness for combating terrorism; impede support to terrorist groups; develop consequence-management capabilities; and assist Partner efforts against terrorism. As such, it constitutes a significant step towards adapting the EAPC and the Partnership for Peace to deal with the security challenges of the 21st century.