Opening remarks

by the Chairman of the Military Committee, General Knud Bartels, at 167th meeting of the Military Committee in Chiefs of Staff session

  • 25 Apr. 2012
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  • Last updated: 25 Apr. 2012 10:56

Messieurs les Chefs d’état-major des Armées, Mesdames et Messieurs les représentants des medias, soyez les bienvenus à cette session du Comité Militaire de l’OTAN en format des chefs d’état-major.

Je suis heureux de retrouver nombre de visages familiers et aussi de saluer les nouveaux venus. Je souhaite en particulier la bienvenue aux chefs d’état-major du Danemark, le Général Peter Bartram, de Slovénie, le Général Dobran Bozic et le chef d’état-major par interim de Belgique, le Général Gerard Van Caelenberghe.

Nous nous réunissons à peine 3 semaines avant le Sommet de Chicago et seulement une semaine après les réunions des Ministres des Affaires Etrangères et de la Défense. Notre objectif, au cours des deux prochains jours, est de tirer parti des progrès réalisés lors de ces réunions de façon à contribuer au succès du Sommet de nos chefs d’Etat et de Gouvernement.

Dans le cadre de cet objectif d’ensemble, je voudrais saisir cette opportunité pour vous rappeler notre rôle qui est de fournir un avis militaire pertinent et opportun au Conseil de l’Atlantique Nord et des directives claires et concises aux Commandants Stratégiques. Nous y parvenons par un dialogue fertile et constructif au sein de ce Comité. Le produit de nos discussions est une compréhension commune des difficultés que nous rencontrons et une approche collective sur la façon de progresser.

Our discussions will cover all the subjects to be addressed at the Chicago Summit and a number of others, which are important to it. Following our first session with the Secretary General, we will look at our current operational priority, which is our mission in Afghanistan.

Despite a number of tactical challenges in recent times we remain cautiously optimistic that our plan remains on track.

Our service men and women working alongside their partners in the Afghan National Security Forces continue to do a superb job. Their personal sacrifice and commitment is a credit the nations of the coalition, who will be represented by their Chiefs of Defence at our meetings today.

The Afghan National Security Forces are increasingly taking the lead and becoming more effective. They are now lead 40% of all combat operations and 50% of the population live in areas under their command and control. This increase in effectiveness has been clearly demonstrated in their actions following a series of challenging threats to security in recent months; including the attacks in Kabul on 15th April.

Tragically though this is at great human cost . This month alone the Afghans have lost 99 soldiers and policemen killed in action. Despite this sacrifice, we have grounds for optimism. We are increasingly seeing that the Afghan National Security Forces will prevail, and the enemy will see that the fight cannot be won, not now or in the future. We can be cautiously optimistic that we are seeing clear evidence that the comparative advantage lies with the Government of Afghanistan, its security forces and its people, and not with the Taliban. Admiral Jim Stavridis, SACEUR, and General John Allen, Commander ISAF, Commanders’ Assessments will support that cautious optimism and we will hear from them personally in detail later.

What is important now is that we must stay the course in accordance with the Lisbon strategy. In this respect the Chicago Summit provides an excellent platform on which NATO will express its commitment to Afghanistan’s future and commit to the delivery of sustainable success.

Following our work on Afghanistan we will engage with a number of partners to explore opportunities to improve practical military cooperation from the military perspective. With Ukraine we will hear of their commitment to take part in Operation OCEAN SHIELD in the future and with Georgia we look forward to their observations on being a partner on operations. We will then meet in NATO Russia Council format, this year is the 15th anniversary of the formal establishment of the NATO-Russia relations and 10 years of the NATO -Russia Council. I therefore look forward to welcoming this afternoon, in three separate sessions, the new Ukrainian Chief of Defence; Lieutenant General Volodymyr Zamana, the Georgian Chief of Defence: General Devi Tchankotadze and the Russian Chief of Defence : General Nikolay Makarov. The NATO Russia Council will be the concluding event of today.

We commence tomorrow with a review of our other NATO operations around the world including a specific look at the lessons identified from our joint operations over and off Libya and how we implement best practice as a result of those lessons.

We will then return to our overall aim and preparation for the Chicago Summit with the close support of SACT, General Stephane Abrial. At Chicago, our heads of State and Government will focus on the goals for the NATO Forces 2020 and on the approach that needs to be taken to achieve these goals. There will be a strategic debate on how NATO retains and acquires the capabilities it needs in financially difficult times. That debate must be grounded in timely and relevant military advice from the Military Committee and our work in the next 2 days will inform that advice. We will review the deliverables proposed for the Summit including Smart Defence, the Defence Package and Ballistic Missile Defence, aiming to demonstrate that NATO can deliver on our level of ambition now and in the future – based on fair sharing of the burden.

Finally our Military Committee Meeting in Chiefs of Staff Session will conclude with discussions on implementation of the new NATO Command Structure which is on track.

So without further ado I am very keen to ‘advance’ and therefore kindly invite the media to leave.