Afghanistan, NATO reform and missile defence on Defence Ministers’ agenda
On 7 June, Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen held his monthly press conference ahead of the meeting of NATO Defence Ministers on 10 and 11 June. He outlined progress and transition in Afghanistan, NATO reform and missile defence as key issues on the agenda.
Transition in Afghanistan
On Afghanistan, the Secretary General discussed the Peace Jirga that took place in Kabul last week, where participants agreed on a package of incentives to support reconciliation and reintegration. He said there was broad agreement “that there should be a political process leading to peace,” adding that at the Kabul Conference on Afghanistan in July, the Afghan Government and the international community will agree on how to start transitioning to Afghan leadership in security.
On Friday, nations contributing to the mission in Afghanistan will discuss transition – what it should look like and what resources will be needed. Mr Fogh Rasmussen stressed that training remains vital and is – despite shortfalls in training resources that he hoped would be filled soon – a “real success story”.
“This success is what the Taliban doesn’t want to see. They might think they can wait us out. But within a year or so, there will be over 300 000 Afghan soldiers and police trained and ready to defend their country. And they can’t be waited out.”
The second main item on the Defence Ministers’ agenda will be spending and NATO reform. Despite tough financial times, the Secretary General said that “we have to take care not to cut too much, or in the wrong way, that we might jeopardise our security in the future.”
He outlined some of the recent reform steps taken to focus spending on where it matters most, such as a review of nations’ military budgets, and measures to set clear spending priorities and improve auditing. “We are very close to agreeing a major reduction in the number of committees” in NATO, he added.
The third topic the Secretary General stressed was missile defence, which he said “is the kind of investment that makes sense”. Extending missile defence to cover not only deployed troops, but Allied populations at home as well, would cost less than €200 million over ten years, he said. The political decision on this will be addressed by Allies at the Lisbon Summit in November.
Kosovo, Ukraine and Georgia
When Defence Ministers meet at the end of the week, those from KFOR contributing nations will look at the way forward in Kosovo. “The first step in KFOR’s transition to a smaller, more mobile deterrent force has gone well,” said Mr Fogh Rasmussen.
Meetings will also be held with the Ukrainian and Georgian Defence Ministers.