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NATO Pledges Support in Afghan Mission - 2001-10-08


NATO has pledged its full support for the U.S. and British military action against targets in Afghanistan and says Washington's allies will provide assistance to the operation as required. The alliance has also approved the deployment of some of its surveillance aircraft to the United States to free similar American planes for operations elsewhere.

NATO Secretary General George Robertson says members of the alliance are solidly behind the actions taken by the United States and Britain in Afghanistan, saying "they reiterated their readiness to provide assistance as required."

Mr. Robertson says NATO ambassadors specifically agreed that NATO-owned AWACS surveillance aircraft be deployed to the United States "to assist with counter-terrorism operations" so that U.S. AWACS planes could be released for duty elsewhere.

Those five NATO planes are now based in western Germany, and Mr. Robertson says he thinks they can be re-deployed to the United States over the next two days. He also says French AWACS planes will replace the NATO aircraft in some surveillance missions over Bosnia.

The alliance's secretary-general says NATO ambassadors reiterated their full support for what he called the carefully targeted attacks against the al-Qaida network led by suspected terrorist mastermind Osama Bin Laden and military installations of Afghanistan's Taleban regime. But he points out that NATO, as a whole is not involved in the campaign.

"Yesterday's actions were carried out by two NATO allies. Other NATO allies have pledged direct military support as this operation unfolds," he stressed.

Mr. Robertson says he expects the United States to call on its allies for further support after NATO declared the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington last month to be attacks against the entire alliance.

"There is no lack of enthusiasm for this campaign because it is a campaign against a common enemy, and everybody knows if the perpetrators of the atrocities of the 11th of September are not found and punished, then the potential for them doing it again remains considerable," said the NATO official.

Mr. Robertson says he is travelling to Washington this week to express NATO's full support for the United States in what he describes as "its hour of need."

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