NATO’s new southern hub in Italy to be fully operational in July

A NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance aircraft arrives at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., Dec. 19, 2015, completing its first flight. Italy will host NATO surveillance drones in Sicily to bolster the alliances overall situational awareness, the alliance announced Monday. NATO's AGS is a derivative of the wide-area surveillance RQ-4 Global Hawk.


By JOHN VANDIVER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: June 11, 2018

The U.S.-led NATO alliance expects a new military hub in Naples, Italy, to be fully operational next month as part of an effort to better monitor terrorism threats along the alliance’s southern doorstep, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Monday.

Italy will also host “cutting-edge” NATO surveillance drones in Sicily to bolster the alliance's overall situational awareness, he said.

“Italy is at the forefront of NATO’s adaptation to threats from the south,” Stoltenberg said during a stop in Rome.

President Donald Trump has called on allies to place greater emphasis on countering terrorism, and the White House has also pressured members to do more in the campaign against the Islamic State.

The new NATO hub, which was announced in early 2017, was pitched as an effort by allies to showcase their ability to combat security threats emanating from the Middle East and northern Africa.

Bases in Italy have long played a key role in aiding U.S. counterterrorism missions in places like Libya. Drones routinely fly from Naval Air Station Sigonella in Sicily, where a Marine crisis-response force is positioned.

The NATO hub, formally known as NATO Strategic Direction South, falls under Allied Joint Force Command Naples.

The allies’ main focus in Europe during the past several years has been expanding military missions in the east to meet concerns about a more aggressive Russia. However, allies in southern Europe such as Italy have said more attention is needed to shore up defenses around the Mediterranean. Instability in the Middle East and northern Africa has resulted in an influx of migrants, which in turn has strained the resources of NATO’s southern members.

Stoltenberg, who met Monday with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, said more closely monitoring hot spots to the south would help allies tackle “problems at the source” and “help prevent new crises and conflicts.”

Twitter: @john_vandiver

Allied Joint Force Command Naples headquarters in Lago Patria, Italy. A new NATO hub, formally known as NATO Strategic Direction South, is expected to soon become fully operational and falls under Allied Joint Forces Command Naples.