Questions and Answers
with the NATO Secretary General, the Afghan President and the UN Secretary-General at the press conference following the meeting on Afghanistan
QUESTION: Ben Nimmo from the German Press Agency, DPA.
A question for all three gentlemen. Given the very serious challenges you still face on security, on institution building, and on reconstruction, how confident are you that the 2014 deadline can be achieved? Thank you very much.
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: I’m confident that we can meet the 2014 deadline primarily because we see a rapid growth in the capacity and the quality of the Afghan Security Forces. We started our training mission last year. Already now, we have more than 260,000 Afghan soldiers and Afghan police. The number is growing and by the end of next year, we have set the goal to have 300,000 Afghan soldiers and Afghan police and 85 per cent of the Afghan soldiers are partnering with the international troops in some major military operations. More than half of the participating troops are Afghans and they do a great job.
And this is a fact, why I’m confident that we can fulfil this goal. And let me take this opportunity to pay tribute to Afghan Security Forces who do their job in such an excellent manner.
HAMID KARZAI: We are confident that the transition will succeed, to the Afghan authority, leadership and ownership because I found today a strong commitment by the international community. This strong commitment by the international community will be matched by determination and hard work by the people of Afghanistan. The two combined will give us the results of an effective, irreversible and sustainable transition.
BAN KI-MOON: I agree with the positions taken by Secretary General Rasmussen and the President Karzai. Basically, I believe that transition is not about end dates. It is about the state of affairs when Afghanistan can take their leadership role, can take more ownership to guarantee to promote their own stability and peace.
This will be a gradual process. It may require patience and strong commitment and support from the international community. You have heard such a strong leadership commitment from world leaders and while transition will take place in military aspect, there will... the international community will have to support Afghanistan government in line with their national priorities.
This is what we have agreed in London and in Kabul this year.
The United Nations will be... to assist the Afghan government to build capacity for the civilian side of the transition. As you know, the United Nations has been there during the last six decades and the United Nations will continuously be engaged in the longer term, working together closely with the President Karzai and his government and other international partners.
QUESTION: Safar Mahmoud, from One T.V., Afghanistan.
My first question belongs to Mr. Rasmussen. Has NATO committed to support Afghanistan after 2014 against any kind of threat outside Afghanistan? And also, I was wanting to know what’s your comment regarding Pakistan government interfering in Afghanistan internal affairs?
My second question belongs to Mr. President.
(Speaks in foreign language).
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: First of all, let me stress that the long-term partnership agreement we have signed today is not only a clear signal to the Afghan people that we will stay committed beyond the date when our combat mission ends. It’s also a clear signal to the region that we will not leave behind a security vacuum that could create instability in the region.
And I see this in parallel with a steadily strengthened partnership with Pakistan as well.
HAMID KARZAI: (speaks in foreign language).
QUESTION: President Karzai, just recently you criticized NATO tactics in conducting night raids and other actions. Have you resolved this issue with your partners here, in Lisbon?
HAMID KARZAI: We are engaging in a very friendly and substantial discussions on all issues that are of relevance to Afghanistan and to the success of our joint mission. I was happy to see that there was an understanding of the Afghan demands on the issues of consent to Afghan people. This was raised during the summit as well and appreciated and understood by the leaders attending the summit. I found an environment in which Afghanistan’s difficulties and Afghanistan’s conditions, the reality on the ground, in other words, was substantially understood and agreed upon by our partners.
I hope that as we move forward, that many of these difficulties will go away and that then our movement to the future will be one without the difficulties that we are encountering. Generally, I found the environment today one of satisfaction and of confidence towards a partnership that will bring us success in our endeavours.
QUESTION: Canadian Press over here. President Karzai, as you know, Canada’s withdrawing its combat troops from Kandahar next year, but it will remain militarily in a non-combat training role. I’m wondering what you think of that and what you think Canada should be doing with its military after 2014.
Et aussi pour le Secrétaire général Rasmussen, est-ce que tu peux répondre de cette question aussi en français?
HAMID KARZAI: Sir, Canada has been at the forefront of assistance to Afghanistan from the very beginning. The Afghan people are extremely grateful to the Canadian contribution to the well-being of the Afghan people. Canada’s decision to continue to assist Afghanistan after they have ended their military mission is welcome and I’m sure as it was announced today by Prime Minister Harper, that Canada will continue to assist Afghanistan with the training of the Afghan forces and with the reconstruction and the continuity of Canadian assistance.
We are very grateful for that.
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Concernant la mission de formation? Oui, tout d’abord laissez-moi exprimer mon appréciation de la décision canadienne de fournir des fournitures pour notre mission de formation en Afghanistan.
Cette mission de formation est cruciale pour le processus de transition. Et j’espère que la décision canadienne va servir comme un bon exemple pour le reste des alliés et de partenaires.
QUESTION: Jay Rathner, Sao Paolo, Brazil.
President Karzai, I would like to know, as Secretary General said, all Afghanistan, all people from Afghanistan should be part of the process. I’d like to know how are the current... how is the current situation on the talks with Taliban groups or the people, former Talibans?
HAMID KARZAI: Well, we had a grand Afghan meeting July this year which proposed the formation of a High Council for Peace alongside other recommendations. We have moved ahead on those recommendations in the High Council for Peace is there now with their membership and its leadership. The Afghan desire for peace is strong and unanimous in Afghanistan. And I’m glad to report to you today that this was also recognized during the summit this morning.
So there is an Afghan unanimity about the peace process and the need for us to move along with regard to the peace process and also backing by the international community.
QUESTION: Mr. Karzai, Secretary General Rasmussen, (inaudible), from German Television on this side.
You have mentioned, Secretary General, that in October next year there might be 300,000 troops, security forces, Afghans that are a positive contribution to the security situation. But can you both describe what has changed that you are so positive that NATO can hand over the responsibility in 2014? What are the positive results at the moment that you can mention, that you led to this decision you just announced? This is the first question.
The second one, you have military offensives in the south at the moment. Will all the military offensives be completed until 2014?
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: As I mentioned, I base my optimism on the fact that we have seen a very encouraging development of the capacity within the Afghan Security Forces. Actually we are ahead of schedule in the build-up of the Afghan Security Forces. And also as regards to quality, we see strong improvement. So this is the first reason.
Secondly, we have sent in more international troops and we also see the positive impacts already now. We see more fighting actually in the south of Afghanistan in Helmand and Kandahar. We are attacking the Taliban stronghold and we are making progress and we will see steady progress in the coming months and years.
So this is a reason why I am optimistic about fulfilling this timetable to start transition at the beginning of next year, completed by the end of 2014, the roadmap outlined by President Karzai.
Having said that, I fully agree with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that this process must be condition based and not calendar driven. We have to make sure that we do not leave Afghanistan prematurely. We have to make sure that the Afghan Security Forces can actually take responsibility before we leave.
But based on the facts I have described, I think this is a realistic timetable.
And according to that, I don’t foresee ISAF troops in a combat role beyond 2014 provided, of course, that the security situation allows us to move into a more supportive role.
QUESTION: Lyse Doucette, of the BBC.
President Karzai, the NATO military strategy seems to be to fight and to try to begin talks at the same time. But you’re the Afghan commander-in-chief. You’ve made it clear you don’t want to see so much fighting and there clearly isn’t a lot of very serious talking going on now.
So if you don’t like this strategy, what are you going to do about it?
HAMID KARZAI: Well, Lyse, you’re pulling my legs. We outlined today during the summit a plan for transition towards 2014 whereby Afghanistan will be readying itself with regards to the Forces and the abilities, capacity necessary for that whereby our NATO allies will be committing themselves to training and equipping and providing the necessary tools for that arrangement to happen and take place on time.
While we are moving in that direction, we also are keenly aware of the need for dialogue, of the need for talking to those who are fighting their own country for whatever reason that they have taken the guns for.
Now this was referred to in particular by the leaders attending the summit and understood generally by the meeting itself. So as I stand before you today, we are moving in the direction of transition to Afghan leadership and Afghan ownership. We are moving in the direction of conducting peace talks under Afghan leadership, backed and understood and endorsed by the international community.