by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the European Union-hosted Brussels Conference on Afghanistan
I am looking forward to attending the EU Conference on Afghanistan. NATO has been present in Afghanistan for many years. We have been there together with the European Union and with the international community. And the efforts of the international community to promote development and the efforts of NATO to strengthen Afghanistan’s security goes hand in hand. Because without security there can be no lasting development, and without development there can be no lasting security. At the NATO Summit in July we decided to continue our presence in Afghanistan with our train-assist-and-advice mission, we will have around 13000 troops in Afghanistan and we also continue to fund the Afghan army and security forces to 2020. As you know we have ended our combat operations in Afghanistan so what we do now is support the Afghan forces. And I think that we have seen this week in Kunduz but also in Helmand the importance of training the local Afghan forces. Enabling them to take full responsibility for the security in their own country and we will continue to support them because we have seen that there are challenges and threats and we have also seen that Taliban is still present in Afghanistan and therefore we have to continue to support the Afghan army and security forces.
Q: What's the situation in Kunduz and Helmand right now? Do the Afghan security forces control it? Are you worried about those areas falling to the Taliban?
JENS STOLTENBERG (Secretary General of NATO): The reports we are getting from our Resolute Support mission, our troops and generals, commanders in Afghanistan is that the Afghan forces have regained control over Kunduz, and what we have seen is that they have been able to repel the attacks, and we've also seen that the Afghan forces are professional, they are dedicated, and that our support, our training helped them to have control and be able also to repel attacks from the Taliban.
NATO is present, Resolute Support is present in Kunduz but in a support role. We assist, we advise, and that's the role of NATO now, not to engage in combat operations but to support the Afghans, as we have seen in Kunduz.
Q: Do you believe that [inaudible] to enhance cooperation and the refugee, the return of refugees to Afghanistan is putting the peace and stability in Afghanistan at risk?
JENS STOLTENBERG: No, I welcome the efforts made both by the European Union and others to work more closely with Afghanistan on the return of refugees, and the more successful we are in providing security the easier it will be to stabilize Afghanistan and also address the root causes of the migrant and the refugee crisis. So there's a close link between what the European Union does, what NATO does in Afghanistan, and the efforts to try to both reduce the number of refugees, migrants, coming from Afghanistan, but also making it possible to return migrants to Afghanistan.
Let me add that the reason why NATO is in Afghanistan is that that's part of efforts to fight international terrorism. The reason why we went into Afghanistan and the reason why we still are in Afghanistan is to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for international terrorists, and that's the reason why it's important for us to strengthen the Afghan forces so they can fight Taliban, Al-Qaeda, and other terrorist organizations.
Q: So what about your mission in Iraq?
JENS STOLTENBERG: We have already started training Iraqi officers in Jordan, we will soon start to train Iraqi officers in Iraq, and we will also start to provide support with AWACS surveillance planes to the international coalition fighting ISIL. All NATO allies participate in the international coalition, NATO provides support in different ways and we will step up our training in Iraq, and I met with Prime Minister al-Abadi and he underlined the importance of NATO training activities in Iraq because that will enable them to fight ISIL and to stabilize the country after they've regained for instance Mosul.
Q: NATO will participate exactly in Mosul battle in next month maybe?
JENS STOLTENBERG: NATO will not be part of combat operations. What NATO is doing is that we are training forces and we will do more of that because we believe that in the long run it is better that local forces, Iraqi forces, are able to fight ISIL themselves instead of NATO combatting big combat operations.
And that's also I think one of the lessons we have learned from Afghanistan, is that for many, many years we conducted big combat operations in Afghanistan but since 2015 we have only been in a support, assist and advise role, and I strongly believe that it is more viable, more sustainable to enable local forces to stabilize their own countries instead of NATO being engaged in big combat operations. Ok?
Q: Thank you very much.
JENS STOLTENBERG: Thank you.