Former NATO Chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen on the Threat of ISIS

The former Secretary General of NATO explains how the alliance approaches terrorist threats and how the future fight against the so-called Islamic State will look.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: When it comes to the terrorist threat first and foremost it is a national responsibility to take steps to prevent terrorist attacks against populations.  However,  within NATO we can strengthen the exchange of information and intelligence.  One issue of particular importance right now is the threat stemming from what we call foreign fighters.  National citizens who travel to Syria or Iraq and maybe join the so called Islamic State and then afterwards return to our countries and they constitute a continuous terrorist threat.  And NATO member states have taken steps to reinforce measures against that threat.

First and foremost let me express that we are faced with a terrorist organization that has carried out horrific acts.  It calls itself the Islamic State but it’s neither Islamic nor a state.  It is a pure terrorist organization and I consider it an obligation for the whole of the international community to fight that terrible terrorist organization.  As far as NATO is concerned there hasn’t been any request for a NATO involvement in the fight against the Islamic State but individual NATO member states have been asked to assist the Iraqi government and I appreciate very much that the United States has taken the lead of an international coalition to fight ISIL.  I think determined military action is needed.  I also have to say in full honesty that air operations alone won’t do the work.  We will need ground troops.

The question is only which ground troops and I think countries in the region should engage in that respect.  As far as NATO is concerned we have decided at the recent NATO summit that NATO stands ready to assist the Iraqi government in building a better defense capability if they so request.  Until 2011 NATO had actually a training mission in Iraq and personally I think it would be a good idea to resume that training mission to increase the capability of the Iraqi security forces.  But obviously the requirement would be an Iraqi request.


Directed/Produced by Jonathan Fowler, Elizabeth Rodd, and Dillon Fitton

Anders Fogh Rasmussen served as Secretary General of NATO from 2009 to 2014. In this Big Think interview, Rasmussen explains how NATO evaluates terrorist threats and what the future fight against the so-called Islamic State will look like.

Ideology drives us apart. Neuroscience can bring us back together.

A guide to making difficult conversations possible—and peaceful—in an increasingly polarized nation.

  • How can we reach out to people on the other side of the divide? Get to know the other person as a human being before you get to know them as a set of tribal political beliefs, says Sarah Ruger. Don't launch straight into the difficult topics—connect on a more basic level first.
  • To bond, use icebreakers backed by neuroscience and psychology: Share a meal, watch some comedy, see awe-inspiring art, go on a tough hike together—sharing tribulation helps break down some of the mental barriers we have between us. Then, get down to talking, putting your humanity before your ideology.
  • The Charles Koch Foundation is committed to understanding what drives intolerance and the best ways to cure it. The foundation supports interdisciplinary research to overcome intolerance, new models for peaceful interactions, and experiments that can heal fractured communities. For more information, visit

How to split the USA into two countries: Red and Blue

Progressive America would be half as big, but twice as populated as its conservative twin.

Image: Dicken Schrader
Strange Maps
  • America's two political tribes have consolidated into 'red' and 'blue' nations, with seemingly irreconcilable differences.
  • Perhaps the best way to stop the infighting is to go for a divorce and give the two nations a country each
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Why a federal judge ordered White House to restore Jim Acosta's press badge

A federal judge ruled that the Trump administration likely violated the reporter's Fifth Amendment rights when it stripped his press credentials earlier this month.

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 16: CNN chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta (R) returns to the White House with CNN Washington bureau chief Sam Feist after Federal judge Timothy J. Kelly ordered the White House to reinstate his press pass November 16, 2018 in Washington, DC. CNN has filed a lawsuit against the White House after Acosta's press pass was revoked after a dispute involving a news conference last week. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Acosta will be allowed to return to the White House on Friday.
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