Anders Fogh Rasmussen served as Secretary General of NATO from 2009 to 2014. In this Big Think interview, Rasmussen explains how NATO evaluates terrorist threats and what the future fight against the so-called Islamic State will look like.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen: When it comes to the terrorist threat first and foremost it is a national responsibility to take steps to prevent terrorist attacks against populations. However, within NATO we can strengthen the exchange of information and intelligence. One issue of particular importance right now is the threat stemming from what we call foreign fighters. National citizens who travel to Syria or Iraq and maybe join the so called Islamic State and then afterwards return to our countries and they constitute a continuous terrorist threat. And NATO member states have taken steps to reinforce measures against that threat.
First and foremost let me express that we are faced with a terrorist organization that has carried out horrific acts. It calls itself the Islamic State but it’s neither Islamic nor a state. It is a pure terrorist organization and I consider it an obligation for the whole of the international community to fight that terrible terrorist organization. As far as NATO is concerned there hasn’t been any request for a NATO involvement in the fight against the Islamic State but individual NATO member states have been asked to assist the Iraqi government and I appreciate very much that the United States has taken the lead of an international coalition to fight ISIL. I think determined military action is needed. I also have to say in full honesty that air operations alone won’t do the work. We will need ground troops.
The question is only which ground troops and I think countries in the region should engage in that respect. As far as NATO is concerned we have decided at the recent NATO summit that NATO stands ready to assist the Iraqi government in building a better defense capability if they so request. Until 2011 NATO had actually a training mission in Iraq and personally I think it would be a good idea to resume that training mission to increase the capability of the Iraqi security forces. But obviously the requirement would be an Iraqi request.
Directed/Produced by Jonathan Fowler, Elizabeth Rodd, and Dillon Fitton