ISAF ministers focus on transition to Afghan lead
On 11 June, the NATO Defence Ministers met with their counterparts from non-NATO nations contributing troops to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. Their discussions focused on the process of transition to Afghan lead and the steps to be taken to drive it forward, particularly in terms of training the Afghan security forces.
The meeting began with a briefing by the ISAF Commander, General Stanley McChrystal, on the progress of operations. He explained that the current strategy is working but warned that progress towards real stability will be slow and deliberate in order to make sure that hard-won progress is enduring.
NATO’s Senior Civilian Representative, Ambassador Mark Sedwill, set out how the Alliance will work with the Afghan government to regain the political initiative as operational conditions improve enough to enable transition to Afghan lead.
What General McChrystal heard from 46 nations around the table was equally straightforward: ISAF will stay as long as necessary because a stable, sovereign Afghanistan means a safer world for all.
The NATO Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, emphasized that NATO/ISAF nations are determined to assist the Afghan government in taking over responsibility for its own country. “Afghanistan belongs to the Afghans. Transition to Afghan lead is not only desirable, it is inevitable,” he said.
He also highlighted three fundamental elements with regard to transition. “First, transition does not mean withdrawal of our forces. It means shifting towards supporting Afghan forces, towards long-term training, mentoring and capacity building. Second, the military and civilian conditions have to be in place for transition to be irreversible. And third, we want those conditions to be in place as soon as possible,” he said.
Transition to Afghan lead
Addressing transition, the Afghan Defence Minister, General Abdul Rahim Wardak, said: “Transition must be conditions-based, it needs to be supported by governance and development, which are themselves underpinned by security.” He added: “We see transition as a process, not as an event isolated in time”.
Building on the discussions held earlier this year with representatives of the Afghan government, first at the London conference and then at the NATO Foreign Ministers meeting in Tallinn, Ministers continued to discuss what needs to be achieved in the coming months to drive the transition forward in both the military and civilian spheres.
They focused in particular on the training of Afghan forces, welcoming the significant improvement in the capacity of the Afghan National Security Forces but also recognizing that more trainers are needed to support that steady progress.
The NATO Secretary General urged Ministers to commit the 450 trainers still needed, out of the 2 123 required by March 2011. “Training is an investment in transition,” he said, “the more training we do, the sooner transition comes. It is a very simple calculation, and very smart investment.”
Ministers finally welcomed the Afghan government’s recent decision to advance the prospects of national reconciliation and called on the government to take further steps to deliver on its commitments, especially with respect to governance and anti-corruption.