NATO’s secretary general Jens Stoltenberg has insisted that the defense alliance’s commitment to support each other militarily is just as crucial for U.S. security as it is for that of Europe and Canada.
“NATO is important for Europe but it’s also important for the United States,” Stoltenberg told CNBC Wednesday in a bid to preserve the group’s commitment to this central principle after President Donald Trump failed to endorse it at a meeting with NATO members last month.
The agreement, known as Article 5, has only been triggered once by the group, when European and Canadian members joined the U.S. in its war in Afghanistan following the September 11, 2001, terror attacks.
“Hundreds of thousands of Europeans and Canadians have fought alongside U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan to fight terrorism and prevent terrorists again using Afghanistan as a base for attacks against the U.S. and other countries,” Stoltenberg said ahead of the latest meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels on Thursday.
The President received criticism last month when he failed to mention this clause, despite it being included in a prepared speech. It is not clear, however, whether he personally omitted the reference or it was removed by White House advisers.
However, Stoltenberg said that the group remained committed to continuing its combined efforts in Afghanistan.
Tomorrow the group is due to discuss possible plans to send a further 3,000 troops to join the 13,000 already deployed in Afghanistan.
Stoltenberg said that a final decision was unlikely to be reached tomorrow but insisted that the final goal for NATO members would be to train and advise Afghan special operation forces to ensure a sustainable and final exit from the country.
“Our main focus will be what more we can do to train the Afghan special operation forces and also to help them to develop air forces. That’s two capabilities that are key if we are going to break the stalemate and gain more in the fight against the Taliban and terrorism.”
Defense ministers are also set to discuss how to better share the burden of security and counter-terrorism measures. This includes fully integrated information-sharing and decision-making structures to combat ISIS and a new Hybrid Branch and Terrorism Intelligence Cell at NATO’s Brussels headquarters.
Earlier Wednesday, Stoltenberg tweeted that European and Canadian NATO members had continued to increase their defense contributions over the past three years. Contributions are expected to grow by 4.3 percent in 2017, taking total payments by members (ex-U.S.) since 2015 to $45.8 billion.
‘NATO is important for Europe but it’s also important for the US', says NATO Sec Gen