NATO Summit sends strong message of commitment to Afghanistan
Leaders from NATO's 28 nations and the 22 partners in the ISAF coalition today gave Afghanistan a clear, long-term commitment to continue supporting the Afghan National Security Forces after the NATO-led ISAF mission is completed in 2014.
Agreeing a NATO Strategic Plan for Afghanistan, the Heads of State decided on a new NATO-led mission which will focus on training, advising and assisting Afghan forces after they have assumed full security responsibility across the country by the end of 2014. This decision was taken at the invitation of the Afghan Government.
"Let me be clear: this will not be ISAF under a different name" said NATO Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen after the meeting. "It will be a new mission, with a new role for NATO" he went on.
The 50 nations that make up the ISAF coalition were joined by the President Karzai from Afghanistan, leaders from Russia, Japan, Pakistan, Central Asian states and key international community partners from the UN and the EU. The presence of these 60 leaders and senior officials demonstrated the strength and depth of international support for the stability of Afghanistan for the years to come.
Allies and partners reinforced this decision with a commitment to support the long-term financial sustainability of the Afghan National Security Forces as part of a broader international effort. "Today, we reaffirmed our strong commitment to support the training, equipping, financing and capability development of Afghan forces in the years to come" said Mr Fogh Rasmussen. "Allies and partners are playing their full part. I welcome the financial commitments that some have made, including additional ones offers I heard today," he added.
The responsibility to contribute to the financing of this effort is one for the international community as a whole, and NATO urged the international community to play its part. "This is an investment in our own security, to maintain the hard fought gains we have achieved together," Mr. Fogh Rasmussen said.
Afghan Forces will reach their full surge strength of 352,000 ahead of the scheduled deadline in October. The decision to gradually reduce these forces to a sustainable level will be taken once the transition process is complete after 2014. It will be based on an assessment on the security situation and the capability of the Afghan forces and taken together with our Afghan partners.
The meeting also agreed on the next stage of NATO-ISAF engagement in Afghanistan. Significant progress has been made since the Lisbon summit in 2010. The insurgency is under pressure as never before and the Afghan Security forces are growing in strength and confidence. They are taking an increasing lead for security and by the middle of 2013 will be providing the lead for security across the country, allowing ISAF forces to shift from leading combat operations to a more supporting role. There was broad agreement that the Afghan security forces are well on track to take full security responsibility across the country by the end of 2014.
As the Afghan Forces take on more responsibility, ISAF Forces can be drawn down gradually and responsibly.
The NATO Secretary General recognized the steps taken by Russia, the Kyrgyz Republic, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan to facilitate the transit of ISAF cargo. He also stressed that “we count on Pakistan’s commitment to support the efforts of the international community to promote peace and stability in Afghanistan”.
The Afghan Government is also playing its part. In a joint declaration with NATO and ISAF, the Afghan Government confirmed its commitment to a stable, democratic, society, based on the rule of law, and good governance. This includes the need to fight corruption and to protect human rights for all Afghans, including women.
“A peaceful, stable and prosperous Afghanistan will benefit the whole region and beyond,” the Secretary General concluded. “Many challenges remain, but we are determined to succeed. And based on today’s discussions, I am confident we will.”