DOHA, Qatar (AP) — NATO's secretary-general on Thursday praised Gulf nations for their role in fighting extremists in Syria and Iraq, and said tackling the threat the militants pose will require long-term multinational efforts.
Jens Stoltenberg made the comments during a visit to the tiny, energy-rich nation of Qatar to mark the 10-year anniversary of the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative, or ISI, a partnership between the alliance and four Gulf states.
He said it is important that the OPEC nation and other regional countries are playing a part in the fight against extremists.
"It is vital for military reasons because of the capability Gulf countries can bring to bear, but also for political reasons to show that this is not about the West imposing its will on others," Stoltenberg said.
A number of Arab nations, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, have taken part in air strikes against the Islamic State group. Others, such as Qatar, a thumb-shaped country jutting into the central Persian Gulf, are playing a supporting role.
Several of the Gulf states host air bases and other military installations vital to the aerial campaign, while Kuwait and Bahrain have hosted conferences focused on countering extremist ideology and fundraising efforts.
Qatar is home to the vast al-Udeid air base, the site of U.S. Central Command's regional air operations center.
The ICI includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and the Emirates, and aims to promote security cooperation between NATO and the countries involved.