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Establishing collective counter-terrorism defense: NATO’s scope and challenges

Updated: Jun 22, 2021

Image: The NATO 2030: United for a New Era report remarks that terrorism has been, and remains, one of the most immediate asymmetric and significant threats facing the Alliance. Depicted is NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the public launch of the NATO 2030 Expert Group’s Report: “United for a New Era”). (photo: Flickr / NATO North Atlantic Treaty Organization / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) ***

After neglecting this blog for sometime, I've promised myself to start using it as a place to highlight new work, research projects, and musings. Today, I'm delighted to share a new piece - links above - co-authored with Agnes E Venema and published with the Netherland Atlantic Association and Atlantisch Perspectief. We looked at how the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has engaged in, and facilitated, counter-terrorism activities, particularly post 9/11.

The full piece is available open access(!) and benefited from insights from counterterrorism colleagues across NATO. What emerged through our research - both through colleague conversations and through publicly available information online - was the breadth of activity that takes place under the 3 pronged approach set out in NATO's current counterterrorism Action Plan: raising awareness, developing capabilities, and enhancing engagement with partner countries. We detail these in the piece, and outline examples of initiatives and operations that have been institutionalised through this approach.

A new couter-terrorism action plan is due to be publicly announced by the end of 2021, and we make some predictions about the direction any updates may take. We expect the three-pronged approach to be maintained and for any announcements to maintain the consistency displayed through NATO's sustained engagement in counter-terrorism activity to date. We expect developments to build on existing work to agree concepts and definitions (building on the NATO counter-terrorism reference curriculum, released Summer 2020) and for NATO to continue to focus on capability-building initiatives across the Alliance, building on iniatives like the Battlefield Evidence Policy (2020). How NATO's planned activity fits into broader NATO 2030 goals, how far states will utilise the resources and platforms provided by the NATO Enterprise, and a series of other equally-broad questions all remain to be seen.

We hope this piece offers an overview that does the topic justice. For me - working on this piece was a valuable reminder of how much there is outside cybersecurity (obviously!) when we talk about emerging security challenges and counter-adversary tactics. Enjoy!

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