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FEATURE ARTICLE  

Allies Express Support for U.S. War on Terror 

12  2,001 

by Elizabeth Book 

Nations with limited resources, largely ignored by the American media, have stepped up to help in the war on terror.

The leading ally has been the United Kingdom, which has participated in both air strikes and ground operations. But other nations also have provided less visible support.

In interviews with National Defense, officials from Argentina, Canada, Italy, France, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Qatar discuss specific contributions they could bring to the campaign. These nations have small military forces, so their pledges of support to the United States, in many ways, show that the attacks of Sept. 11 were taken by these and other nations as “attacks on freedom and democracy.” During the past two months, nations from every continent have contacted the United States to volunteer military, logistical, humanitarian and diplomatic services.

Canada is credited as having been the first nation to offer hospitality to airborne passengers aboard planes bound for U.S. destinations, when U.S. airspace closed abruptly, for the first time ever, on Sept. 11. Diverted planes landed at small airports all over the country.

“Canada has never been a nation to sit on the sidelines. We did not pick this fight. But we will finish it. Because on the side of justice ... in a just cause, there can be only one outcome—victory,” said Canada’s Prime Minister Jean Chretien. Chretien made the statement after witnessing the deployment of Her Majesty’s Canadian Ships Preserver, Iroquois and Charlottetown, bound for the war zone.

Canada also offered assistance for the United States with homeland defense efforts. According to officials at the Canadian Embassy, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police “has been working with its American counterparts to provide whatever technical, logistical and other support is necessary to assist them in their investigation.” Also, customs officers are maintaining a high state of alert, and have increased the questioning of people and the examination of goods entering the country.

Canadian nationals also provided specialized equipment to the rescue effort in New York. A little-known Canadian company called Muttluks donated over 800 pairs of specially designed boots for dogs, which would withstand the heat of the rubble of the World Trade Center. These boots are not produced in the United States, and are made of breathable, waterproof Hydroflex coated fabric.

For the campaign in Afghanistan, Canada recently dispatched several vessels, aircraft and 2,000 support troops.

In South America, meanwhile, Argentina’s political and military leaders have expressed support for the United States. President Fernando de la Rua, in a speech following the attacks, said: “We do not doubt for a minute that we will be together with the United States and its government, because in this scenario, no country can be neutral or unarmed,” he said. Argentina, under an agreement made during the Clinton Administration, is the United States’ only South American “non-NATO ally.”

Both nations “have common enemies, who don’t share our values of liberty, freedom and democracy,” said Argentina’s defense attaché to the United States, Maj. Gen. Daniel Reimundes. He noted that his nation was hit by terrorist attacks in 1992 and 1994 and that the perpetrators are thought to have been connected to Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda organization. “Many say that terrorism happened because we took the position of the U.S. during the Gulf War,” Reimundes said.

He added that Argentina’s leaders have offered the United States assistance in the fight against terrorism. “My government, my army, is open to any request for expertise or manpower.” He said that Argentine troops are prepared to serve, either in Afghanistan or in Kosovo, to replace American peacekeeping forces. He noted that Argentine forces are particularly well prepared to work in mountainous regions. Since the Argentine border with Chile physically resembles the mountains of Afghanistan, Argentine forces would perform well in Afghanistan.

However, Reimundes said the United States is unlikely to ask that Argentine troops participate on the ground in Afghanistan, because Argentine and U.S. troops would not be interoperable. “If you don’t train together in peace time, you can’t work together in war,” he said.

Argentina was the only South American country to send troops to the Gulf War for Operation Desert Storm.

Among U.S. allies in Asia, Japan was one of the first to offer assistance. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said that the government of Japan would provide humanitarian assistance to displaced persons, as well as logistical support to the U.S.-led coalition as necessary. Most likely, “this involves the provision and transportation to Pakistan of materials necessary for the international humanitarian relief operations for the refugees in Pakistan,” he said.

“Because of our constitution, we can’t perform military operations with use of force abroad. The maximum amount of support Japan can provide in a situation like the one in Afghanistan, is logistical support,” said Kohei Saito, press officer for the Japanese Embassy in Washington. However, six Japanese Self-Defense Force C-130H aircraft airlifted humanitarian materials to Islamabad, Pakistan, in the days following the U.S.-led attacks. Saito also reported that the Japanese government submitted a bill to the Japanese parliament to provide additional logistical support for U.S. forces and other countries in operation with the United States.

The Italian Defense Air and Defense Cooperation Attaché, Brig. Gen. Tommaso Ferro said his government worries that its geographic proximity to regions that may harbor Islamic terrorism makes Italy vulnerable. Additionally, exiled Afghan King Zahir Shah currently lives in Rome, as do many other exiled Afghan nationals.

“It is shown that they have some capability, and they may see us as a target,” he said. “They don’t need that high a capability to reach our country,” he said. Patrols over Italian airspace have increased.

In the United States, he said, “there has never been a specific threat on its homeland that would require an aircraft to be ready to respond to protect its borders within five minutes. In Europe, since the Cold War, this has always been the case.”

Remi Marechaux, deputy spokesman for the Embassy of France, said that the French commitment to the war would include military and intelligence support to the United States. Immediately before the U.S. started its targeted bombings in Afghanistan, two large French vessels—one a frigate, and one a command and refueling ship—arrived in Afghanistan. “We have long relationships with Afghan commanders, and we have long histories of working with them,” Marechaux said.

France has also sent AWACS (airborne early warning radar aircraft) to replace other NATO platforms in the Balkans, which are headed to the Afghan region. A role in the air strikes is also under consideration. Lord George Robertson, NATO’s secretary-general, noted that this marks NATO’s first operational deployment in the United States. On Sept. 12, the alliance’s 19 members invoked Article five of NATO’s Washington Treaty, committing to help defend the United States.

Marechaux reported that the French public reacted favorably to the initial U.S. military operations in Afghanistan. In a recent poll, “69 percent of the French people approve of the military action,” he said. “And 55 percent approve of France contributing to the U.S. military action.” Such a high level of public support for military action is rare in France.

U.S. allies in the Middle East generally support the anti-Taliban campaign, but they are cautious about their stance, given the instability in that region today. Saudi Arabia’s Minister of the Interior, Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz noted: “People gathering in Afghanistan from Arab countries are doing so in contravention of Islam, since Islam does not allow the killing of those who are innocent.”

He also expressed satisfaction at a statement made in October by President Bush, concerning his support for the creation of a Palestinian state, which many saw as an effort to increase the base of the U.S.-led coalition to include Arab states, such as Saudi Arabia. Bin Abdulaziz said that protests against the United States and the United Kingdom taking place in the region have to do with U.S. support of Israel, a state that, according to Bin Abdulaziz, “is killing the sons of the Palestinian people and making them homeless.”

Israel, American’s longest standing democratic ally in the Middle East, has not been asked to participate militarily in the U.S.-led coalition, probably because countries such as Saudi Arabia would not participate if Israel were involved. Israel has made it clear, however, that it intends to contribute to the international struggle against terrorism.

In an Oct.18 statement, the Israeli government said that nation “shares with the U.S. and the free world those values that are so repulsive to Bin Laden and his ilk. We represent the same values of freedom, liberty and democracy, and it is those values which the terrorists wish to destroy. Since Israel is part of the West, terrorists are also directing their efforts at Israel.”

His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, emir of Qatar, said his nation is on the U.S. side. Qatar, a tiny gulf nation to the east of Saudi Arabia, has gained notoriety for being the home of Al Jazeera, the Arab World’s only free and independent news agency. Qatar, a Muslim nation, signed a joint military agreement with the United States in 1992.

Qatar, according to Al Thani, is a “young democracy.” Through an interpreter, he said, “We are a true partner for the United States in the Middle East. Next year, we will have a nationally elected parliament with universal voting rights, including the right to vote for women. The other Muslim countries allow terrorists in their countries because of a lack of democracy and a lack of a constructive dialogue.”

Al Thani visited the site of the World Trade Center in early October.

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