Mon, Jul 11, 2016 - Page 4 News List

NATO to use surveillance planes against IS

AFP, WARSAW

NATO leaders on Saturday agreed to deploy sophisticated surveillance aircraft to support the US-led fight against the Islamic State group in Syria, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said.

Stoltenberg said a summit of the 28 NATO leaders in Warsaw had formally approved a plan for the alliance’s airborne warning and control system (AWACS) aircraft to fly over international airspace and help the US-led coalition.

“We will provide AWACS support and the plan is to have them to flying over international airspace and Turkey and that will allow us to look into airspace in Iraq and Syria,” Stoltenberg told a news conference.

The aircraft are one of the few concrete assets that NATO has, with most of its military hardware belonging to individual member states.

AWACS are aircraft with powerful radars that allow them to monitor airspace for hundreds of kilometrers around. They can also be converted into command posts to coordinate bombing raids and other air operations.

The Warsaw summit closing statement said: “NATO AWACS aircraft will be made available to support the Counter-ISIL [Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant] Coalition.”

In May, NATO said the aircraft would not be directly involved in monitoring Muslim militant groups, but would instead fill in for US and allied aircraft that would be re-tasked to gather intelligence over Islamic State hotspots.

Several European NATO members have been wary of becoming too involved in the bloody fight against the Islamic State group, but pressure has grown after deadly terror attacks in Paris and Brussels.

In Warsaw, NATO also agreed to take further steps to boost counter-terorism efforts in countries in the Middle East and North Africa, Stoltenberg said.

It is to deploy a team to Baghdad to start a new training scheme in Iraq, which is battling the Islamic State group.

“To the south we see failed and failing states, and millions left homeless and hopeless by terrorist groups like ISIL,” Stoltenberg said.

The alliance is also to start providing support for Tunisian special forces and set up an intelligence “fusion center” in Tunisia.

NATO is to further launch a maritime security operation in the Mediterranean to help deal with the migration crisis and the chaos in the waters off Libya.

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