NATO is an active and leading contributor to peace and security on the international stage. It promotes democratic values and is committed to the peaceful resolution of disputes. However, if diplomatic efforts fail, it has the military capacity needed to undertake crisis-management operations, alone or in cooperation with other countries and international organisations. Through its crisis-management operations, the Alliance demonstrates both its willingness to act as a positive force for change and its capacity to meet the security challenges of the 21st century.
- NATO is a crisis-management organisation that has the capacity to undertake a wide range of military operations and missions.
- The tempo and diversity of operations and missions in which NATO is involved have increased since the early 1990s.
- Approximately 18,000 military personnel are engaged in NATO missions around the world, managing often complex ground, air and naval operations in all types of environment.
- Currently, NATO is operating in Afghanistan, Kosovo, the Mediterranean and off the Horn of Africa.
- NATO is also supporting the African Union and conducting air policing missions on the request of its Allies; it also has Patriot missiles deployed in Turkey.
- NATO carries out disaster-relief operations and missions to protect populations against natural, technological or humanitarian disasters.
NATO in Afghanistan
NATO is currently leading Resolute Support, a non-combat mission which provides training, advice and assistance to Afghan security forces and institutions. Resolute Support was launched on 1 January 2015. It includes approximately 13,000 personnel from both NATO and partner countries and operates with one hub (in Kabul/Bagram) and four spokes in Mazar-e Sharif, Herat, Kandahar and Laghman. Key functions include: supporting planning, programming and budgeting; assuring transparency, accountability and oversight; supporting the adherence to the principles of rule of law and good governance; supporting the establishment and sustainment of processes such as force generation, recruiting, training, managing and development of personnel.
The mission in Afghanistan constitutes the Alliance’s most significant operational commitment to date. Moreover, beyond Resolute Support and ISAF, Allies and partners countries are committed to the broader international community’s support for the long-term financial sustainment of the Afghan security forces. NATO leaders have also reaffirmed their commitment to an enduring partnership between NATO and Afghanistan, by strengthening political consultations and practical cooperation within the framework of the NATO-Afghanistan Enduring Partnership signed in 2010.
NATO in Kosovo
While Afghanistan remains NATO’s primary operational theatre, the Alliance has not faltered on its other commitments, particularly in the Balkans. Today, approximately 4,800 Allied troops operate in Kosovo as part of NATO’s Kosovo Force (KFOR). Since June 1999, KFOR troops continue to maintain a strong presence throughout the territory, preserving the peace that was imposed by NATO 15 years ago. Following Kosovo’s declaration of independence in February 2008, NATO agreed it would continue to maintain its presence on the basis of UN Security Council Resolution 1244. It has since helped to create a professional and multi-ethnic Kosovo Security Force, which is a lightly armed force responsible for security tasks that are not appropriate for the police. Meanwhile, progress has been achieved in the European Union-sponsored dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina. The normalization of relations between Serbia and Kosovo is key to solving the political deadlock over northern Kosovo.
Monitoring the Mediterranean Sea
NATO operations are not limited only to zones of conflict. In the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, NATO immediately began to take measures to expand the options available to counter the threat of international terrorism. In October 2001, it launched the maritime surveillance operation Active Endeavour, focused on detecting and deterring terrorist activity in the Mediterranean. Since April 2003, NATO has been systematically boarding suspect ships. These boardings take place with the compliance of the ships’ masters and flag states and in accordance with international law. The increased NATO presence in these waters has benefited all shipping travelling through the Straits of Gibraltar by improving perceptions of security. More generally, the operation has proved to be an effective tool both in safeguarding a strategic maritime region and in countering terrorism on and from the high seas.
Counter-piracy off the Horn of Africa
Building on previous counter-piracy missions conducted by NATO, Operation Ocean Shield is focusing on at-sea counter-piracy operations off the Horn of Africa. Approved on 17 August 2009 by the North Atlantic Council, this operation is contributing to international efforts to combat piracy in the area. It is also offering, to regional states that request it, assistance in developing their own capacity to combat piracy activities.
Supporting the African Union
Well beyond the Euro-Atlantic region, the Alliance continues to support the African Union (AU) in its peacekeeping missions on the African continent. Since June 2007, NATO has assisted the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) by providing airlift support for AU peacekeepers. Following renewed AU requests, the North Atlantic Council has agreed to extend its support on several occasions and continues to do so. NATO is also working with the AU in identifying further areas where it could support the African Standby Force.
Air policing missions
Since Russia’s illegal military intervention in Ukraine in 2014, NATO has been taking extra reassurance measures for its Allies. Among these is the boosting of NATO’s air policing missions. Air policing missions are collective peacetime missions that enable NATO to detect, track and identify all violations and infringements of its airspace and to take appropriate action. Allied fighter jets patrol the airspace of Allies who do not have fighter jets of their own. NATO has deployed additional aircraft to reinforce missions over Albania and Slovenia, as well as the Baltic region where NATO F-16s have intercepted Russian aircraft repeatedly violating Allied airspace.
This air policing capability is one of three NATO standing forces on active duty that contribute to the Alliance’s collective defence efforts on a permanent basis. They also include NATO’s standing maritime forces, which are ready to act when called upon, as well as an integrated air defence system to protect against air attacks, which also comprises the Alliance’s ballistic missile defence system.