US calls on NATO allies

The US made a formal request to NATO on 3 October for the use of a number of NATO assets, including surveillance aircraft, ports, military bases and air space. The request was made by the US ambassador to NATO, Nicholas Burns, the day after NATO had invoked Article 5 of its treaty relating to the mutual defence of its members. The US has also made a number of separate, bilateral requests for military assistance from countries such as France.

The US request has been passed on to the governments of the various NATO members and a formal answer could come as early as today. The assets that the US wants to use will not be under NATO control as the US has constructed a global coalition for its campaign in Afghanistan.

The US emphasis on the use of logistical assets reflects the fact that they believe NATO is an organisation which takes too long to come to its consensus decisions, as evidenced by the Kosovo campaign. This at least partially explains why certain requests for direct military involvement in the US campaign in Afghanistan have not been made via NATO, but directly to the countries concerned.

Unusually, the 17 AWACS early warning aircraft which the US wants to use belong directly to NATO rather than to any individual member.

The only NATO member apart from the US likely to supply troops and military hardware in any significant numbers is the UK. However, France’s offer of two warships and special forces troops to the US is significant as the two countries have a chequered past when it comes to military cooperation.

 

NATO included a commitment to collective self-defence in its founding treaty in order to ensure the freedom of its European members during the Cold War. In a move which surprised many commentators, it was invoked by the North Atlantic Council, NATO's decision-making body, at a meeting on 2 October. This was despite the fact that the attacks in the US on 11 September were not launched by a foreign country but by a group of individuals.

 

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