Challenges facing NATO in its fight against Daesh


As I was returning home from a visit to NATO headquarters, the streets of Brussels were packed with protestors against President Trump’s arrival to attend the NATO summit on May 25, as he had called Brussels a “hellhole” during his campaign. The crowd was marching from the northern railway station to Bourse Square, carrying banners proclaiming: “Stay away from our hellhole”, “Stop Trump”, “Keep your little hands away from my rights” and “Global warming is not a lie”. The protests continued for three hours amid intensified security and I barely made it home.

President Trump’s first NATO summit focused on two major issues: combatting the terrorist organization Daesh (the self-proclaimed IS) and increasing military spending by NATO members.

NATO’s increased effectiveness in the fight against terrorism gained particular substance during the summit as it coincided with the Manchester attack that had taken place a few days before. Hence, NATO member states decided to formally join the Global Coalition against Daesh. This decision came in response to continuous pressure on the part of Washington, the leader of the coalition.

Although it is restricted to logistic support, intelligence, training and arming with no participation in military operations, joining the Global Coalition per se sends a strong political message to Daesh and its supporters and financers, that the international community is united against terrorism and leaves no room for complacency in the fight.

The Global Coalition against Daesh includes most of the European countries that are part of NATO and carry political weight, effectiveness and influence in the international system. Thus, the geographical area of countries involved in combatting terrorism will expand to constrict and throttle countries that support and finance terrorism.

The summit also focused on increasing military spending by NATO members, which was a major call of President Trump during his campaign. He said that only five of the 28 NATO members are paying their fair share, and called on the allies to bear their share of the burden of security with Washington.

In 2014, during a NATO summit held in Wales, member states pledged to raise military spending to two percent of their GDP. Hence, the Brussels summit did not call for any increase in spending, rather it discussed commitment to the previous pledge, i.e. two percent of GDP. So, Washington is trying to put pressure on its allies to increase military spending by increasing their purchase of arms and military equipment, a large part of which is made in the United States.

The new US administration, led by President Trump, has made terrorism and the combat against Daesh a priority. Forming 70 percent of its force, the United States leads the Global Coalition against Daesh that NATO has recently joined. Moreover, its coordination with the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Alliance, led by Saudi Arabia, was confirmed during the Arab Islamic summit held in Riyadh. Such regional and international alliances demonstrate Washington’s determination to make terrorism one of its priorities.

Dr. Ibrahim Al-Othaimin is a Middle East affairs specialist and security analyst based in Riyadh. He can be contacted at Follow him on Twitter @Alothaimin