NATO Establishes Joint Force Command in Naples to Monitor Threats from Libya

Excerpts from Remarks from NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the start of the meetings of NATO Defence Ministers

We will discuss what more NATO can do in the fight against terrorism. We have been engaged in this effort for many years, and today our work continues. From Afghanistan to Iraq and Tunisia. With support for the Counter-ISIL Coalition and with improved intelligence-sharing.

Today, we will decide to set up a Hub for the South at our Joint Force Command in Naples. This will help us to coordinate information on crisis countries such as Libya and Iraq, and help us address terrorism and other challenges stemming from the region.

NATO has trained Iraqi officers for some time but that training has taken place in Jordan.  We have also trained some in Turkey. But now we have started to train Iraqi officers in Iraq. It’s taking place in and around Baghdad. It’s a modest start but it is scalable activity and of course this is just one of the ways that NATO helps and supports the efforts of the Counter-ISIL Coalition. I met with President Abadi. We discussed the importance of NATO’s support and there has also been a formal request from the Iraqi government and we are now responding to that formal request by the training which has started inside Iraq in January. This is in addition to what we do in Jordan, where we also train Iraqi officers.

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Excerpts from the Pre-ministerial press conference by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg

Press conference by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg before the Defence Ministers meetings at NATO headquarters on 15 and 16 February 2017

During this ministerial, we will also focus on the fight against terrorism, and threats stemming from the Middle East and North Africa. NATO is providing support to the Counter-ISIL Coalition and working to train partners like Iraq, Jordan and Tunisia. But we can and should do more.

We will also launch a review of the NATO Command Structure, to ensure we have the right tools to deal with the challenges we face. And we will agree further steps to resist hybrid warfare, hybrid threats, including with strengthened cyber defences.

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Earlier this month I met with Prime Minister al-Sarraj of Libya and we discussed how we could provide support for Libya, how NATO could provide support and help Libya and NATO stands ready to assist Libya and if requested by the Government of National Accord we are ready to help them, especially when it comes to building defence institutions, implementing reforms and building the structures they need to stabilize the country. We are now in the process of discussing how we can do this with the Government of National Accord and a team around Prime Minister Sarraj. At the same time we are present in the Mediterranean with our Operation Sea Guardian which is also providing help to the Operation Sophia, the EU Operation Sophia in the central Mediterranean. So it’s a bit too early to say what more NATO will do but we are actually in dialogue … close dialogue with Libya on these issues now and also with the EU. When it comes to Iraq we have just … we have trained Iraqi officers in Jordan for some time but now we are … in January we started to also train Iraqi officers inside Iraq. It’s a modest start but it’s scalable and one of the issues we will discuss is whether we will then based on the experience of training inside Iraq not only in Jordan, whether we will expand and scale that up. That’s something we will be discussing later on.

We’re working on the establishment of a hub for the south at our Joint Force Command in Naples. The final decision has not yet been taken but we’re working on this concept and it’ll be addressed at the defence ministerial meeting which starts tomorrow. The idea with a hub is to increase our ability to coordinate, to get a better understanding, situational awareness of the threats and the challenges emanating from the south, from North Africa and the Middle East. Having said that I would like to underline that of course NATO and NATO capabilities, they are 360 degree available. So if there is a real threat, if there is a need for instance NATO Response Force or the NATO Spearhead Force in the south we will deploy to the south. So we have to remember that it’s not only the hub for the south that is relevant for the south, we have a wide range of capabilities that if needed can be used also in the south. But the hub will add some specific understanding, some specific tools to address the challenges we see emanating from the south and it will be located together with a Joint Force Command in Naples.

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