NATO is a political and military alliance of 28 North American and European countries that have joined together to best pursue security and defense.
The principle of collective defense is at the heart of NATO and it means that an attack on one Ally is to be considered an attack on all.
Founded in 1949, NATO played a unique role in maintaining stability and security in the trans-Atlantic area during the Cold War. Since the end of the Cold War the Alliance has transformed itself to meet the security challenges of the new century. Today, NATO’s operations include leading the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission in Afghanistan, ensuring a safe and secure environment in Kosovo through the KFOR mission, and contributing to international counter-piracy efforts off the Horn of Africa through Operation Ocean Shield. In 2011, NATO successfully carried out the UN-mandated mission in Libya to protect civilians, enforce a no-fly zone, and enforce a maritime arms embargo. NATO has also provided airlift and sealift support to the African Union (AU) missions in Somalia and Sudan, has engaged in a number of humanitarian relief operations in recent years, including delivery of over 100 tons of supplies from Europe to the United States following Hurricane Katrina, and leads the counterterrorism Operation Active Endeavor in the Mediterranean Sea.
NATO has become the hub of a global security network, establishing partnerships with over thirty countries. These ties provide opportunities for practical military cooperation and political dialogue. Partners have contributed significantly to NATO operations in Afghanistan, Kosovo, Iraq, and Libya.