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
“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
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.