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NATO IS considering setting up a new  counter-terrorism intelligence center in Naples, Italy, media reports said.
NATO IS considering setting up a new counter-terrorism intelligence center in Naples, Italy, media reports said. (Courtesy of NATO)

STUTTGART, Germany — The U.S.-led NATO alliance is developing plans for a new crisis center in Italy in an effort to sharpen the military pact’s focus on terrorism threats emanating along its southern doorstep, German media reported Thursday.

The coordination center in Naples will function as a hub for better analyzing information and intelligence from hot spots in Syria, Iraq and Libya, the dpa news agency reported. It said that planning for the center, which is expected to employ about 90 military personnel, began before the election of President Donald Trump.

Trump has criticized the current NATO force posture as antiquated and has emphasized the need for the alliance to place greater focus on counterterrorism efforts.

Next week, U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis will be in Brussels to meet with his counterparts for two days of talks at NATO headquarters in Brussels. Ways to boost NATO’s profile in the fight against Islamic State and other terrorist groups will be at the top of the agenda.

Mattis’ visit comes at a time of tumult inside alliance circles, where there are concerns about Trump’s mixed messages on the value of the 28-nation alliance.

In recent weeks, NATO has emphasized its efforts in support of the U.S. coalition battling the Islamic State group in the Middle East, including a program focused on training troops inside Iraq.

NATO officials have also said they foresee a larger role in intelligence gathering in any expanded counterterrorism effort.

When asked about the plans for a new crisis center in Naples, NATO confirmed that the anti-terrorism fight would be on the agenda of the talks in Brussels.

“Next week, NATO defense ministers will meet to address the alliance’s adaptation to a changed security environment,” a NATO official said. “Part of their discussion will focus on NATO’s role in the fight against terrorism, and in countering threats from our southern neighborhood,” said the official, who could not be identified under alliance rules.

Naples is home to NATO’s Allied Joint Force Command, which is responsible for preparing and conducting alliance military operations. The headquarters, which played a key role in NATO’s 2011 bombing campaign in Libya, is led by U.S. Adm. Michelle Howard.

Howard also commands U.S Naval Forces Europe and Africa, also headquartered in Naples.

Twitter: @john_vandiver

vandiver.john@stripes.com

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John covers U.S. military activities across Europe and Africa. Based in Stuttgart, Germany, he previously worked for newspapers in New Jersey, North Carolina and Maryland. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware.
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