Defence Ministers reaffirm commitment to Afghanistan
Today, the 48 NATO and ISAF Defence Ministers reaffirmed their long-term commitment to Afghanistan which remains NATO’s top operational priority. Ministers were updated on the operational situation from the Commander of ISAF, General David Petraeus, who explained how progress against the insurgency was enabling the transition to Afghan lead to start in seven Districts and Provinces in July, as planned.
“Transition is based on conditions, not the calendar. But I am confident that we can complete our handover of security to the Afghans by the end of 2014. This does not mean we are heading for the exit. Our commitment to Afghanistan will endure beyond that through our long-term partnership.” Said NATO Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
As part of this process, Ministers agreed to work together with the Afghan authorities to define the relationship between the NATO-ISAF and Afghanistan after transition is complete in 2014 in order to reassure the Afghans of our long-term commitment to their country. This work will help clarify the likely evolution of security support to Afghanistan for the years to come.
As the first meeting of Defence Ministers since the successful operation against Osama Bin Laden, Allies and ISAF partners sent a clear a message that extremism has no future.
Mr Fogh Rasmussen explained: “It is now time for the Taliban to make a choice: cut links with al-Qaeda and terror networks, renounce violence and respect the democratic Afghan Constitution, including its provisions on human rights.”
Allies discussed the road to resolution and reconciliation, with over 1700 insurgents having now reintegrated back into mainstream Afghan society. They stressed the importance of this process, reflecting that the solution to this conflict must enable the reintegration of former fighters back into society.
In order for transition to be successful and irreversible, it must include key elements of economic development and governance, as well as security. In the realm of governance, Rule of law is one of the highest priorities for the Afghan people and their government. Afghans have to have access to fair legal processes if the transition to Afghan lead is to be durable. To help facilitate this process, Ministers agreed on the establishment of a NATO Rule of Law Field Mission to enhance the Afghan government’s capacity to deliver those essential services. The Mission is designed to support Afghan officials and international justice experts as they build the Afghan justice sector. The mission will focus on areas of security and coordination as well as engineering support or helping upgrade the buildings which justice needs to function.
NATO Secretary General Rasmussen took the opportunity on behalf of the ISAF family to thank outgoing ISAF Commander General David Petraeus for his dedicated service and extraordinary leadership. He thanked the General for showing firm commitment to the Alliance and the ISAF mission.