by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the joint press point with President Karzai of Afghanistan
I am very happy to be here as Afghanistan reaches this important milestone. In your history and in our shared journey.
Mr President, your announcement that the Afghan security forces will be taking the lead for security across this country marks an important moment. Every region. Every city. Protected by Afghan soldiers and Afghan police. At the same time, ISAF forces will be shifting from a combat to a support role.
We have worked hard, and fought hard, to make this possible. And we can be proud of what we have achieved together.
Your forces are showing great courage. Great skill. And making great sacrifices.
Their families and loved ones, the veterans and serving soldiers we have met here today can be proud. All Afghans can be proud of their security forces. And the family of nations who contribute to ISAF, and who have done so much to help this force stand on its feet, can be proud.
ISAF is made up of fifty nations. It is the largest coalition in recent history. Fulfilling the mandate of the United Nations and building security in Afghanistan.
As ISAF shifts to a support role, Afghan forces will guarantee the security of Afghanistan. They will be in charge of security at next year’s elections. And they will provide continued security in the years to come.
This is my message to the Afghan people today: We have been on a long, tough journey. But the goal is in sight. At the end of next year, your security forces will be fully responsible for your security. And our combat mission will come to an end.
But that will not mark the end of our road together. It will mark the beginning of a new journey. The international community remains committed to Afghanistan beyond 2014. And in consultation with the Afghan authorities, NATO is planning a different mission, to train, advise and assist Afghan forces so that they can develop further after 2014. To make sure that the gains we have made cannot be undone.
Thanks to the courage and sacrifice of so many brave men and women, Afghan and international, over the past 11 years, your country’s future rests firmly in your hands.
The time to start is today. Preparations have already begun for next year’s elections. Those elections will be an opportunity for all Afghans to make their voices heard. And an opportunity for Afghanistan to show its commitment to a democratic, inclusive and secure future.