NATO Allies Urged to Boost Intelligence Sharing, Deny Islamic State Libya Base
Tirana, Sunday May 29, 2016 – NATO and its allies must boost intelligence sharing and expand cooperation with Middle East and Gulf states in their efforts to contain the Islamic State group and ensure that terrorists do not seize control in Libya, experts and lawmakers from NATO nations warned on Sunday.
Despite recent set-backs, and as a US-led coalition helps Iraqi forces take the city of Fallujah back, the group, also known as Daesh and which has been developing chemical weapons, is changing the way it operates and remains capable of large-scale attacks, like those in Paris last year and Brussels in March, deputies were told.
Those attacks exposed weaknesses in intelligence sharing, as national authorities, often reluctant to share information among themselves, failed to warn their neighbours about extremist movements, including the return of foreign fighters from Syria.
“The instruments are there, but there is a lack of political will and mutual trust to use them to their full potential,” General Rapporteur and French lawmaker Joëlle Garriaud-Maylam told the NATO Parliamentary Assembly’s Committee on the Civil Dimension of Security at the assembly’s Spring Session in Tirana, Albania.
In a draft report to the Political Committee, US Congressman Gerald Connolly highlighted the importance of anchoring wealthy and influential Gulf states in the fight against Daesh, but he noted that tensions with Iran could undermine those efforts.
Beyond degrading IS, Gulf countries could “have an important financing role in the immense task of rebuilding Syria once conflict there comes to an end,” said Norwegian lawmaker, Oeyvind Halleraker. He underlined that “regional rivalry with Iran is a major factor hampering international efforts to defeat the terror organisation.”
Experts warned in particular that it is vital to stop Daesh increasing its toehold in Libya, amid deep concerns among the country’s neighbours that the extremist threat could easily spill over borders.
“We can’t allow Daesh to create a new haven, with significant oil reserves, in Libyan territory,” said Bruno Tertrais, senior research fellow at the Foundation for Strategic Research in Paris. He said intelligence officials believe that around 200 Europeans were trying to join Daesh in Libya each month.
Ilir Kalemaj, from Albania’s University of New York Tirana, warned that “the major fear is a spilling over of any of the borders.” He noted that Tunisia has deployed thousands of troops to its border with Libya, and that Egypt is worried too.
In a draft report debated by the Defence and Security Committee, Attila Mesterhazy of Hungary urged Allies to step up the training and advising of Iraqi troops and to better exploit tools already available to combat the radicalisation of young people who might be drawn to the group.
The importance of defeating Daesh was highlighted in a draft report by Dutch lawmaker Maria Martens looking at its efforts to obtain and use chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons. The report, debated in the Science and Technology Committee, noted that Daesh is the first non-state actor in more than 20 years to use military grade chemical weapons, in Iraq and Syria.
NATO and its partners must prepare themselves for the possibility of such an attack, rapidly detect one when it happens and manage the immediate and longer-term consequences from first-response medical care through to decontamination and coping with the psychological and social impacts, the draft warned.