by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the press conference following the meeting on Afghanistan
Let me begin by welcoming President Karzai and Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to this Summit meeting on Afghanistan.
Over the past few years, there have been many international meetings on Afghanistan. All of them have been important and valuable. But this one is different. Because here in Lisbon, we have launched the process by which the Afghan people will once again become masters in their own house.
Starting early next year, Afghan forces will begin taking the lead for security operations. This will begin in certain districts and provinces, and based on conditions, will gradually expand throughout the country. The aim is for Afghan forces to be in the lead country-wide by the end of 2014.
To achieve that goal, we must train and educate Afghan soldiers and Afghan police. Therefore our training mission is crucial. In that respect it is encouraging that we have heard announcements that several Allies and partners will provide more trainers. It is indeed a strong commitment to our mission and it is a strong commitment to the transition process, because trainers are the ticket to transition.
This is truly a new phase in Afghanistan’s modern development.
- Ten years ago, Afghanistan was torn apart by civil war, under a brutal regime, and hosting the most dangerous international terrorists in the world.
- Today, despite all the difficulties, Al Qaeda has no safe haven anywhere in Afghanistan. The Taliban is under pressure everywhere. And the Afghan people are steadily getting freer, healthier, better educated, and better governed.
- That is what will make Afghanistan resistant to terrorism tomorrow – along with the Afghan security forces we are training to take over security from us.
But one thing must be very clear: NATO is in this for the long-term. We will not transition until our Afghan partners are ready. We will stay, after transition in a supporting role. And as you just saw, President Karzai and I have signed an agreement on a long-term partnership between NATO and Afghanistan that will endure beyond our combat mission.
To put it simply: if the Taliban or anyone else aims to wait us out, they can forget it. We will stay as long as it takes to finish our job.
But of course, we cannot succeed alone. The military is necessary, but we need a true comprehensive approach. That is a clear lesson of our experience in Afghanistan.
That is why I am very pleased that Secretary General Ban is here. Under his leadership, the UN has been a true partner for NATO. Indeed, Afghanistan has brought the UN and NATO closer together than ever in our histories. And we will have much more to do together, to help Afghanistan find the peace, security and development its people deserve.
Mr. President, may I give you the floor?