With Adam Rawnsley
Trump meets NATO. In a move meant primarily to appease President Donald Trump, NATO leaders said on Thursday that the alliance was joining the fight against the Islamic State. Every nation among the alliance’s 28 member states already support the effort in Iraq and Syria in some way, and several fly daily bombing missions targeting the terrorist group. In addition, some NATO countries, like France and the U.K., have special operations forces operating on the ground in Iraq and Syria.
Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Thursday that joining the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition “will send a strong political message of NATO’s commitment to the fight against terrorism and also improve our coordination within the coalition.” But he underscored that “it does not mean that NATO will engage in combat operations.” The alliance will instead establish a new intelligence unit to track foreign fighters in Europe and appoint a counterterrorism coordinator.
Several diplomats, in fact, told Reuters that the decision to join the fight is window dressing meant to hand Trump one of his much-needed public wins. “NATO as an institution will join the coalition,” said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. “The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States. France and Germany believe it is.”
A spokesman for newly elected French President Emmanuel Macron said he would tell Trump he is “attentive” to Trump’s call, but the decision will not be a step toward “transforming NATO into the sole strike force against Islamic State.”
Allies will also be eager to show the American delegation that they’re making progress toward spending two percent of their GDP on defense, and will be watching to see if Trump finally affirms Article 5, the mutual defense provision in the alliance’s charter, which the president has pointedly refused to do so far.
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