The Washington Post
BRUSSELS, Belgium The 19 members of NATO issued a sweeping pledge yesterday to fight all forms of terrorism “for as long as necessary” by developing new defense capabilities and strengthening strategic coordination among themselves and with other blocs.
In a communique issued by NATO”s North Atlantic Council, foreign ministers vowed to “enhance alliance military capabilities” and deepen relations with other states and international organizations to ensure appropriate action is taken more effectively to confront terrorist threats.
Secretary of State Colin Powell praised NATO”s growing role in fighting terrorism since the Sept. 11 attacks. “This unflinching decision, and the critical assistance this alliance has provided, has sent a clear message to our enemies about the depth of our common purpose,” Powell told a news conference on the first of two days of talks with his counterparts.
In announcing the agreement, NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson said the world had to have “zero tolerance” for global terrorism. He said NATO”s new task will be “a prolonged and demanding commitment. But NATO has always been ready for the long haul.
“The threats have changed but our resilience and relevance have not,” Robertson told another news conference at NATO headquarters.
In unusually strong language, NATO declared there is “no justification whatsoever” for terrorist actions and said the world”s mightiest military alliance is “determined to combat this scourge. Our security requires no less.”
The statement took pains to add, however, that its fight against terrorism is “not against Islam,” but against extremists, their networks and those who harbor them.
NATO specifically called for improving individual and collective capabilities to protect member populations from attack, particularly from weapons of mass destruction. It also pledged to enhance cooperation against terrorism with the countries in Partners for Peace, which includes many of the former Soviet countries.
Defense ministers scheduled to meet here next week are expected to follow up with discussions of specific steps NATO members can take, with a full package of measures prepared for agreement by the NATO summit in Prague, Czech Republic, next year, Robertson said.
NATO also gave open-ended and unqualified support to the U.S. campaign in Afghanistan. “We have decided to support, individually and collectively, the ongoing U.S.-led military operations until it has reached its objectives,” the communique said.
In his own speech to NATO, given behind closed doors, Powell cautioned that recent military gains did not mean the Afghan operation would soon end.
“Don”t stand down. There”s a lot more to be done,” Powell told his NATO colleagues. “Every ounce of support is necessary and may be needed in the future.”
The secretary also tried to smooth ruffled feathers among some NATO allies miffed by the U.S. decision not to deploy their forces in Afghanistan after governments went out on a limb to offer significant contributions. “The circumstances of this campaign mean that not every ally is fighting, but every ally is in the fight,” Powell told his counterparts.
In a separate action, NATO also announced a new formula to loosely embrace Russia in NATO, based on a “new quality” in relations between Moscow and the Western alliance and Russia”s response in large part due to its role since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.