Joint press conference
with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and the President of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai
I am very happy to be here with you again, Mr President. And to look back at how far Afghanistan has come.
Two years ago this month, the transition to Afghan security responsibility began. And in less than two years from now, Afghan troops and police will be fully responsible for Afghanistan’s security.
Two years ago, the Afghan forces were only in the lead in the Kabul area. Now they are taking the lead in areas where 87% of Afghans live.
At the same time, they have grown more capable, effective, and confident. Compared with this time two years ago, they are better trained. More experienced. And there are 75,000 more of them.
This steady progress has come despite great challenges, and at a great cost. Some of your forces have made the ultimate sacrifice.
We pay tribute to their courage, their professionalism, and their determination.
In the next few months, the Afghan forces will take the lead for security right across the country.
Every province. Every district. Every village and valley.
This a great responsibility. But Afghanistan’s forces have shown they can rise to the challenge. And they will continue to have our support.
Let there be no doubt: our commitment is certain, to the end of transition, and beyond it. NATO will stand by you.
Mr President, you were with us at our summit in Chicago last year, when we agreed to work towards establishing a new NATO-led mission, to provide training, advice and assistance after 2014. That mission will be called Resolute Support – because our support for Afghanistan remains steadfast.
The whole international community has made an unprecedented commitment to support a stable and democratic Afghanistan. And I am confident that the international community will live up to its commitments, just as we expect the Afghan government to live up to its commitments.
But the future of this country is in the hands of the Afghan people. Only Afghans can shape that future.
I met earlier today with a group of young leaders from across Afghanistan. These young men and women come from many places and walks of life. But they all have a clear vision for the future. They all share the energy and determination to make that vision real. And I was inspired by that meeting.
Their message was: this is our country, and we are building it.
Next year’s elections are your opportunity to choose the future you want. That is your sovereign right. It is your sovereign role. And it is your sovereign responsibility.
It will be vital that these elections are inclusive, and that the process and the outcome are acceptable to the Afghan people.
And it will be vital to make sure that the Afghan government continues to deliver on its commitments to strengthen the rule of law, fight corruption and uphold human rights, including the rights of women.
Because that will be key to maintain stability within Afghanistan, and support within the international community. No doubt, there will be challenges ahead. But no doubt, Afghanistan – with the support of its friends and partners - can do it.
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN (NATO Secretary General): (...) Thank you, Mister President.
HAMID KARZAI (President of Afghanistan): Welcome, Sir. Would you like to pick the question there?
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Yes, I can do that. Ladies, first.
Q: (Speaks in foreign language)
HAMID KARZAI: Please.
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: First of all...
HAMID KARZAI: You take the easy part.
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Yes, well, I don't know if it's easy. But I have a very clear message. First of all, I strongly condemn the statements that suicide attacks are legitimate. Nothing can justify such terrorist attacks, let me stress that. So I strongly condemn such statements.
Next, we have repeatedly urged the Pakistani government and the Pakistani military to step up the fight against terrorism and extremism in the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan. We need a positive engagement of Pakistan if we are to ensure long-term peace and stability, not only in Afghanistan but in the region.
And I think time has come for the Pakistani leadership, the military leadership as well as the political leadership to realize that it is in their self-interest to ensure a peaceful development in Afghanistan.
HAMID KARZAI: (Inaudible)
Q: (Speaks in foreign language)
HAMID KARZAI: You, Sir. In the middle, yes.
Q: I'm Dylan Wilkes... Dylan Wilkes from Reuters. I'm just wondering in your conversation this morning whether any of the recent incidents in Kunar or Wardak were raised. And if so, what was discussed?
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: No, we didn't discuss these incidents.
HAMID KARZAI: May I add something to that. This is an issue between us and the United States. And we have faced it with the US government chair with the commander of the US Forces. We had a meeting the other day on this with Joe Dunford and the US ambassador. The US government is investigating the issue on its own and we hope that that will be shared with us very soon. Of course, you already know the position and the demand of the Afghan government.
Q: (Inaudible) First of all, welcome to Afghanistan. My question is about... There are some reports about the (Inaudible)... Afghanistan Ministry of Defence on handover of security and installations or facilities of NATO in Afghanistan. It has been said that NATO doesn't want to hand over these facilities to Afghan government because NATO say that Afghan forces have low quality to keep these facilities. I want to have your comments on this, thank you. (Speaks in foreign language)
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: This issue should be seen as part of the overall transition to transfer of lead responsibility to the Afghan security forces. Actually, some military facilities have already been handed over to Afghan authorities. And I would foresee more such facilities to be handed over in the future.
But of course, you also point to an aspect that is important. We negotiate with the Afghan authorities to make sure that such handover can actually also be managed afterwards. There are some economic aspects. There are technical aspects. There are educational aspects. We have to make sure that once a facility is handed over it can also be managed in an effective way and that it won't burden the Afghan government unnecessarily; because you have a lot of things to spend money on. For instance, it's important to provide a sufficient amount of funds to make sure that Afghan security forces can actually operate to the benefit of the Afghan people.
And if resources are then found in concrete buildings, things, that may actually occupy too many resources.... If your security forces that are supposed to protect your people they are to stay and guard military facilities that are not necessarily well suited for a specific purpose; then I think it's a waste of resources. So that's why we are in a very close dialogue with Afghan authorities as to how and as to whether such facilities should be demolished or actually handed over in a way that ensures that the Afghan security forces can provide effective security for the Afghan people. That's the purpose.
Q: (Speaks in a foreign language)
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Well, my answer to that is very brief; because NATO is not in the business of listing... or black-listing organizations. So NATO, as an organization, doesn't deal with that. But as I said earlier today, I expect full and positive engagement of Pakistan when it comes to ensuring long-term peace and stability in the region. And of course, that includes all institutions and authorities in Pakistan.
Now, let me add to the previous question that obviously it's in our interest to see the Afghan Security Forces fully capable to take full responsibility for the security all over Afghanistan by the end of 2014, when the current ISAF combat mission ends. And obviously that also includes the necessary equipment.
As the president indicated, this is primarily an issue between Afghanistan and individual NATO Allies; because it is for individual NATO Allies to provide such military equipment.
And I know that a lot has already been done. I know that more will be done. Of course with a view to ensuring that the Afghan Security Forces are well equipped to address what is the real challenge when it comes to security in Afghanistan.
HAMID KARZAI: I think that's enough.
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Yes, thank you.
HAMID KARZAI: (Speaks in foreign language)
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Please.