Select Committee on Defence Second Report


7. The scale and horror of the attacks on New York and Washington have set in train repercussions and consequences whose effects will be felt for years to come. In this report we can only attempt to reach some initial and, in many cases, provisional conclusions on the most obvious and immediate of these.

8. On 12 September, the North Atlantic Council met and agreed that 'if it is determined that this attack was directed from abroad against the United States, it shall be regarded as an action covered by Article 5 of the Washington Treaty, which states that an armed attack against one or more of the Allies in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all'. This was the first occasion in the more than fifty years of NATO's history on which this article, which lies right at the heart of NATO's historic purpose, was invoked.[8] It was a political act of major significance.

9. On the same day the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1368. That Resolution, as well as expressing the Security Council's condemnation of the attacks and its sympathy for the victims, called on 'all states to work together urgently to bring to justice the perpetrators, organisers and sponsors of these terrorist attacks and [stressed] that those responsible for aiding, supporting or harbouring the perpetrators, organisers and sponsors of these attacks will be held accountable.'[9] The UN General Assembly agreed a similar resolution at the same time.[10] The Foreign Secretary described the Security Council Resolution as 'in many ways ... more important' even than NATO's invocation of Article 5.[11]

10. On 28 September the UN Security Council agreed Resolution 1373, which required all states to prevent and suppress terrorist financing and to deny safe haven to those who finance, plan, support or commit terrorist acts. The Resolution also established a Committee of the Council to monitor its implementation. All states were called upon to report to the Committee on the actions which they had taken to implement the Resolution no later than 90 days from the date of its agreement (ie before the end of 2001).[12] Sir Jeremy Greenstock, UK Permanent Representative to the UN, was named Chairman of the new Committee on 4 October.

11. The actions of the UN were the central part of a wider diplomatic effort to develop and maintain a broad international coalition of support for actions against terrorism generally and against al Qaeda and the Taliban regime in Afghanistan in particular. On 4 October, the Foreign Secretary described the extent and breadth of that coalition as 'extraordinary'.[13] It has embraced a large number of muslim states, including Pakistan and Iran. It has seen unprecedented levels of cooperation between the United States and Russia including the latter's approval of over-flight by American planes and the stationing of American troops in Uzbekistan.

12. Some commentators have argued that a significant development arising from the horrific events of 11 September has been a shift in United States foreign policy away from a perceived tendency towards isolationism. Professor Lawrence Freedman, Professor of War Studies, King's College London told us—

We are hoping, most of us, at the moment that how this has worked out so far will encourage the United States to be much more multilateral in its foreign policy.[14]

Professor Paul Rogers, Professor of Peace Studies, University of Bradford, however, did not share that opinion—

I am bound to say that I believe that it is reinforcing the unilateralist perspective [of the United States administration] very strongly.[15]

He argued that since President Bush was experiencing very high levels of domestic support, the security advisers in the administration (whom he characterised as 'hard-core') were able to exert a great deal of influence. This in turn was likely to lead the United States to extend its military campaign against terrorism to other countries.[16]

13. Air Marshal Sir Tim Garden KCB, Visiting Professor, Centre for Defence Studies, King's College London, believed that it was too early to draw definitive conclusions, but he did suggest that one positive effect of 11 September had been on the willingness of the US to engage with other nations, with which it had not been willing to engage before, and indeed the UN.[17] He went on—

The relationship that has developed between Russia and the United States has been entirely benign and will serve us well into the future. The intelligence sharing that appears to be taking place between nations, including the United States, that was inconceivable before 11 September, may build trust.[18]

14. In the longer term these re-orientations in the terms of the relationships between some of the major countries and blocs of the world may well have more far-reaching consequences than any military or other actions taken directly against terrorists and terrorist organisations. Already the developments in relations between the United States and Russia appear to have fundamentally altered the terms of the debates on ballistic missile defence and on the future of NATO. We expect to return to these matters in later inquiries. But for the present, our concern is to consider the nature of the terrorist threat itself. The international community's resolve to deal with terrorism may have hardened to an extent unforeseeable before 11 September, but to what extent has that determination been commensurate with the change in the threat or even in our appreciation of the threat? Do the events of 11 September alert us to the existence of a new breed of terrorist, and does the scale and nature of those attacks warn us to expect attacks using new or unconventional weapons?

8  The decision to invoke Article 5 was taken on 12 September. For technical reasons, the act of invocation itself took somewhat longer (Q348) Back

9  UN Security Council Press Release SC/7143 Back

10  UN General Assembly Resolution A/RES/56/1 Back

11  HC Deb, 14 September 2001, c 619 Back

12  UN Security Council Press Release SC/7156 Back

13  HC Deb, 4 October 2001, c 691 Back

14  Q 160 Back

15  Q 176 Back

16  ibid Back

17  Q 182 Back

18  ibid Back

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© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 18 December 2001