Good morning. It is a great pleasure to welcome you to NATO Headquarters this morning. And it is a particular pleasure to thank you, on behalf of the Alliance, for Japan’s generous and continuing support for the Afghan National Army Trust Fund. Your pledge of a further contribution to that fund is a very important pledge at this time, and our gratitude goes to the government and the people of Japan.
Creating effective and educated security forces is the key to Afghanistan’s future. And together, we are already achieving results. Over 85% of the training of the Afghan forces is now carried out by the Afghans themselves. This shows that Afghanistan is increasingly able to build and maintain its own forces. That is vital for a secure Afghanistan, one that will be able to stand on its own feet beyond 2014. I expect this to be a central theme of the Chicago Summit in May.
But we all know that the Afghan forces will need our support for the long term. That is why NATO set up the Trust Fund to which Japan has just made an important contribution. And Japan is one of our most important contributors. Today’s offer of 20 million dollars to support long-term literacy training is the third donation that Japan has made to the Fund in the last three years.
Literacy training is enormously important. It improves the quality of the security forces. It strengthens society against radicalisation and corruption. It helps the economy to develop and diversify. And it gives recruits a new sense of pride in themselves and their forces.
NATO and the people of Afghanistan alike know how valuable Japan’s support really is. And it is all the more welcome because we know the challenges that Japan faces at home, as the country continues to focus on recovery from the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. The donor conference which will take place in Tokyo in July of this year is another testimony to Japan’s commitment.
As our meeting today showed, Japan and NATO have a lot to do together, and our relationship goes well beyond our work in Afghanistan. The foundation of our relationship is in our shared values and the common security challenges we face. Speaking for NATO, we remain committed to continue enhancing our political dialogue and our practical cooperation and to strengthening our partnership even further in the future.