Brussels- NATO defense ministers were expected in a Wednesday meeting to decide on establishing a southern defense hub at NATO’s allied inter force command center in Naples, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said at the beginning of two-day talks with NATO defense ministers in Brussels.
He added that the hub would help coordinate information on countries experiencing a crisis such as Libya and Iraq, and help deal with terrorism and other challenges from the North African and Middle Eastern region.
NATO’s Framework for the South, which sets down the basis for the Naples, focuses on ‘”the search for information and considerations on the situation in place as well as capacity building in countries in the region and coordination of all operations that can be done for the south.”
The ministers also discussed NATO’s Joint Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance capability and agreed to develop a follow-on capability for NATO AWACS planes after they retire around the year 2035.
Tasked with increasing the capacity to identify threats and improve situational awareness, the plan is part of an effort by NATO to strengthen its role in combating terrorism, a key area of concern for President Donald Trump, who has criticized allies for not doing enough against such threats.
In a brief statement Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis called NATO a “fundamental bedrock for the United States,” offering comments aimed at reassuring some allies, though admonishing that Washington “will moderate its commitment” to the alliance if they did not increase their spending on defense.
While committed to the southern counter-terrorism center, NATO has not mentioned when operations will begin.