Radar Planes From NATO To Patrol U.S. Coast
Canada, France Aiding Effort in Afghanistan
By Keith B. Richburg and DeNeen L. Brown
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, October 9, 2001; Page A09
PARIS, Oct. 8 -- The NATO alliance plans to send five European radar planes to help protect the East Coast of the United States from attack, taking over responsibilities normally handled by U.S. aircraft that are taking part in the Afghanistan strikes, officials said today.
As the strikes entered their second day, other allies stepped forward with assistance in the Asian conflict zone itself. Canada said it will send 2,000 troops including a commando unit, six warships and six airplanes to join the campaign, while France said it had intelligence agents on the ground working with the Afghan opposition.
The deployment of AWACS aircraft, four-engine planes outfitted as flying radar stations, is perhaps the most unusual manifestation of the division of labor emerging among the NATO allies. The joint cooperation will place European troops, in this case Germans, in charge of securing the safety of an American coastline.
The AWACS are coming from Geilenkirchen air base in Germany. NATO officials call the new assignment symbolically significant, because the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington were carried out with hijacked airplanes.
"It's a compliment from the United States that they're happy to have their skies patrolled by NATO," said Mark Laity, special advisor to NATO's secretary general, George Robertson. "The tragedy came from the skies."
In the opening days of the military campaign in Afghanistan, the United States is getting aid from allies in many ways, including troops in the field -- British forces participated in the first day's salvos -- access to ports and airfields, and the sharing of intelligence.
Generally, the arrangements are structured to give the Brussels-based NATO a role in the anti-terror coalition, but maintain nearly complete field control in U.S. hands. That way actions can proceed without consultations with numerous allied capitals. "We all know a coalition is never as coordinated as one nation on its own," said Laity.
In some cases, the allies are filling holes created as U.S. troops ship out from their normal stations for duty in the Afghan theater.
On Tuesday, NATO plans to formally authorize a redeployment of European naval forces to the eastern Mediterranean, in part to free up American naval ships there for the Afghan conflict. The decision was made today, NATO sources said, but not announced to give alliance ambassadors time to consult with their home governments.
From the start, the Bush administration has let it be known that as the operation unfolds, the United States will need to redeploy some forces out of the Balkans. Among the forces that might be shifted, a U.S. official said, are specialized medical units in Kosovo and units operating unmanned drones, or low-flying surveillance aircraft.
"We have some specialized units in the Balkans and committed elsewhere in Western Europe to specific European missions," said a U.S. diplomat. "We hope not to, but we may have to pull out temporarily for some counter-terrorism operations. We may just need those specialized units or equipment for counter-terrorism purposes."
Canada's contribution will include the frigate HMCS Halifax, with 230 personnel, which was immediately directed to the Persian Gulf; one destroyer; a supply ship; and Sea King helicopters. Another frigate, the HMCS Vancouver, will be deployed from Canada's west coast.
Canada's air force will provide surveillance and airlift support with three C-130 Hercules, one Airbus plane and two Aurora maritime patrol aircraft. The commandos to be deployed are a component of a unit called Joint Task Force 2.
Defense Minister Art Eggleton said he has authorized 100 members of Canada's armed forces who were serving in exchange programs in the United States and with other allies to participate in operations conducted by their "host units in response to the recent terrorist attack."
Earlier, in response to a request from the North American Aerospace Defense Command, a joint U.S.-Canadian organization, eight additional Canadian jet fighters were assigned to patrol North American airspace, up from four before Sept. 11, Canadian officials said.
Australia, meanwhile, has offered 150 elite Special Air Services troops, as well as refueling and surveillance aircraft, bringing the Australian commitment to 1,000 troops.
France has offered use of its naval forces in the Indian Ocean, and defense ministry officials said today that intelligence agents are already on the ground in Afghanistan in contact with the opposition Northern Alliance forces.
The slain Northern Alliance leader, Ahmed Shah Massoud, was fluent in French and had extensive French military contacts, a French military source here said.
Brown reported from Toronto.
© 2001 The Washington Post Company