What is NATO doing to counter the threat of terrorism?

  • 06 Jul. 2021 -
  • |
  • Last updated: 06 Jul. 2021 09:41

Gabriele Cascone, Head of NATO’s Counter-Terrorism Section, explains how the Alliance leverages its expertise and its partnerships with other nations to help counter this threat.

NATO Experts | What is NATO doing to counter the threat of terrorism?

Terrorism is a very real threat to our populations, and it knows no borders. NATO’s work on counter-terrorism focuses on improving awareness of the threat, developing capabilities to prepare and respond, and enhancing engagement with partner countries and other international actors.

Questions and Answers with Gabriele Cascone, Head of NATO’s Counter-Terrorism Section

1. How did NATO get involved with counter-terrorism activities?

Counter-terrorism was long seen as a largely national policy issue, but following the attacks of 9/11, it became clear that terrorism is a transnational threat and that NATO can add value and has a role to play in addressing the threat. And with the growing threat of terrorist groups such as ISIS, NATO has further enhanced its contribution to the international fight against terrorism.

2. What steps has the Alliance taken to counter terrorism?

NATO plays a key role in the fight against terrorism, contributing troops to train local forces in Afghanistan and Iraq. As part of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, NATO has also contributed with AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System) surveillance flights. We have also launched an initiative to counter the threat posed by so-called “low, slow and small” drones – usually commercial off-the-shelf or modified drones. Allies have agreed to a policy on battlefield evidence to ensure information and data collected on the ground by NATO forces can be used to bring foreign terrorist fighters to justice. And NATO is also exploring how its involvement in operations may contribute to countering the financing of terrorism, for example by preventing the looting of cultural property in operational areas.

3. How does NATO work with its partners in countering terrorism?

Many of our partners are directly affected by terrorism, and working with them is one of the cornerstones of NATO’s counter-terrorism work. We are supporting our partners, especially those in the south, through training and education. A concrete example of this is the work conducted with Jordan where a mapping exercise led to the joint identification of a number areas where NATO and Jordan have agreed to support concrete initiatives. We are also stepping up our engagement with the African Union (AU), including through the first NATO-AU joint counter-terrorism training in April 2019 and a dedicated NATO-AU counter-terrorism dialogue in December 2019.

4. What is the cost of terrorism to our societies, both in terms of human lives and economic impact?

In 2019, a total of 13,826 people lost their lives to terrorism. The death toll remains substantially higher than a decade ago and is still nearly three times as high as the number recorded in 2001. And terrorism also affects the economy. The estimated global economic impact of terrorism in 2019 amounted to US$26.4 billion. Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia had the largest economic impacts, equivalent to US$12.5 and US$5.6 billion of GDP for 2019, respectively. (Global Terrorism Index 20201)

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