The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and its allies will launch its biggest military exercise since 2002 in October to counter Islamic State (IS) militants in Southern Europe.
As many as 36,000 soldiers will be deployed across the Mediterranean to train in a complex “artificial threat scenario” in which militants will launch land, sea and air attacks, the organization said on Wednesday.
“We cannot choose between the eastern threat and the southern threat, we have to train for both,” said General Hans-Lothar Domrose, commander of the NATO military command at Brunssum, Netherlands, in reference to the threat from Russia.
More than 30 countries, including non-NATO nations such as Sweden and Austria, will take part in the exercises which will be staged in Spain, Italy, Portugal and in the Mediterranean from 3 October to 6 November.
“We will be working in a huge training area,” Domrose said. “We will focus on speed, on multiple threats, simultaneously,” Domrose added.
The move responds to the rise of IS in Iraq and Syria. The organisation’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg warned the Arab Spring uprisings had led to a “brutal winter” of instability.
NATO’s last exercises on this scale date back to 2002, when 15 members of the alliance and 12 partner nations tested their capabilities in Norway and Poland.