Topic: Collective defence and Article 5

The 9/11 terrorist attacks

The United States was the object of brutal terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001. The Alliance’s 1999 Strategic Concept had already identified terrorism as one of the risks affecting NATO’s security. The Alliance’s response to 9/11, however, saw NATO engage actively in the fight against terrorism, launch its first operations outside the Euro-Atlantic area and begin a far-reaching transformation of its capabilities. Moreover, it led NATO to invoke Article 5 of the Washington Treaty for the very first time in its history.

An act of solidarity

On the evening of 12 September 2001, less than 24 hours after the attacks, the Allies invoked the principle of Article 5. Then NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson subsequently informed the Secretary-General of the United Nations of the Alliance’s decision.

The North Atlantic Council – NATO’s principal political decision-making body – agreed that if it determined that the attack was directed from abroad against the United States, it would be regarded as an action covered by Article 5. On 2 October, once the Council had been briefed on the results of investigations into the 9/11 attacks, it determined that they were regarded as an action covered by Article 5.

By invoking Article 5, NATO members showed their solidarity toward the United States and condemned, in the strongest possible way, the terrorist attacks against the United States.

Taking action

After 9/11, there were consultations among the Allies and collective action was decided by the Council. The United States could also carry out independent actions, consistent with its rights and obligations under the United Nations Charter.

On 4 October, once it had been determined that the attacks came from abroad, NATO agreed on a package of eight measures to support the United States. On the request of the United States, it launched its first ever anti-terror operation – Eagle Assist – from mid-October 2001 to mid-May 2002. It consisted in seven NATO AWACS radar aircraft that helped patrol the skies over the United States; in total 830 crew members from 13 NATO countries flew over 360 sorties. This was the first time that NATO military assets were deployed in support of an Article 5 operation.

On 26 October, the Alliance launched its second counter-terrorism operation in response to the attacks on the United States, Active Endeavour. Elements of NATO’s Standing Naval Forces were sent to patrol the Eastern Mediterranean and monitor shipping to detect and deter terrorist activity, including illegal trafficking. In March 2004, the operation was expanded to include the entire Mediterranean.

The eight measures to support the United States, as agreed by NATO were:

  • to enhance intelligence-sharing and cooperation, both bilaterally and in appropriate NATO bodies, relating to the threats posed by terrorism and the actions to be taken against it;
  • to provide, individually or collectively, as appropriate and according to their capabilities, assistance to Allies and other countries which are or may be subject to increased terrorist threats as a result of their support for the campaign against terrorism;
  • to take necessary measures to provide increased security for facilities of the United States and other Allies on their territory;
  • to backfill selected Allied assets in NATO’s area of responsibility that are required to directly support operations against terrorism;
  • to provide blanket overflight clearances for the United States and other Allies’ aircraft, in accordance with the necessary air traffic arrangements and national procedures, for military flights related to operations against terrorism;
  • to provide access for the United States and other Allies to ports and airfields on the territory of NATO member countries for operations against terrorism, including for refuelling, in accordance with national procedures;
  • that the Alliance is ready to deploy elements of its Standing Naval Forces to the Eastern Mediterranean in order to provide a NATO presence and demonstrate resolve;
  • that the Alliance is similarly ready to deploy elements of its NATO Airborne Early Warning Force to support operations against terrorism.

 

https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/topics_110496.htm