Joint Press conference
with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg : Good afternoon. First of all, I’d like to express that I am very pleased to be here in Kabul and also to be together with the President.
And thank you so much, President Ghani, for the warm welcome and for the excellent meeting. It lasted a bit longer than planned but that’s just an expression of the close relationship we are developing between Afghanistan and NATO. And we are building on the relationship we have developed for so many years.
I am also grateful to the Chief Executive Officer Dr. Abdullah for our very productive meeting earlier today.
And you have both shown great leadership in setting up the national unity government. And you have both shown your commitment to a partnership on behalf of the Afghan people.
And I salute your leadership. And I strongly welcome your commitment. These are key for the democratic, and united, and stable development of Afghanistan.
NATO and our partners have stood with Afghanistan for more than a decade. The ISAF mission brought together 50 nations – the largest coalition in recent history.
And that’s great for all of us that we have been able to work so close together.
And together, we have done what we set out to do.
Our nations are safer. And Afghanistan is stronger.
We owe this to the courage and the sacrifice of our troops.
We have made our nations safer by pursuing the international terrorists who used Afghanistan as a safe haven to launch horrific attacks.
And we have made Afghanistan stronger by helping building capable national security forces.
And together, we have created the conditions for a better future for Afghan men, women and children.
This progress has come at a great cost.
To NATO, to our partners, and to Afghanistan.
We will hold those who lost their lives in our memory. And we must honor by remaining committed to our joint efforts all those who lost their lives, and which we are going to honour by staying committed to our common cause.
At the end of this year, Afghan forces will assume full responsibility for the security of this country. And I am confident that they are ready.
I have seen some of your commando units today – and they are very impressive.
And you can be truly proud of them.
And of all the three hundred and fifty thousand soldiers and police who will continue to protect Afghanistan every day.
Next year, we will open a new chapter.
The future of Afghanistan will be in Afghan hands.
But our support will continue.
We will start a new mission to train, advise and assist Afghan forces.
We will also continue our financial support.
And, as President Ghani and I discussed, we want to further develop our long-term partnership with Afghanistan.
At the same time, we count on our Afghan partners to play their part. And to live up to the commitments they made.
I look forward to the timely completion of the parliamentary process of our Status of Forces Agreement. And to further progress on good governance, the rule of law, and human rights, including the rights of women.
And I commend you, Mr. President, for your strong personal leadership as you move forward on all these vital issues.
I invited you, Mr. President, to our NATO ministerial meeting in the beginning of December. And I am honoured to announce that you have accepted our invitation, and that the President will join us at our NATO ministerial meeting on the 2nd of December. I also invited the Chief Executive Officer Dr. Abdullah to attend the same meeting
The Afghan people have chosen the path of peace and democracy. And I am here to confirm NATO’s continued commitment to stand with you.
So, thank you so much Mr. President, and also thanks to Chief Executive Dr. Abdullah, for welcoming me today. I wish you well. And I look forward to working closely together with both of you at this decisive time of Afghanistan.
GHANI: Thank you, Mr Secretary General. Four questions? Yes please.
QUESTION: Mr President, you will soon have to deal with an insurgency by yourself. What do you see as the biggest challenges and for how long do you expect the NATO to support you?
GHANI: Well, what’s the biggest opportunity? Let me turn your question around. The biggest opportunity is that this government, that represents the absolute majority of the people, is enabled to turn the Afghans who hitherto have seen themselves as subjects into citizens – carriers of rights, and carriers of obligations. When we are united, and when we are determined to overcome obstacles, history has shown that nothing can prevent us. There are lots of small obstacles, but let me assure you of our capabilities. Afghanistan is here to endure, the way we’ve endured for 5,000 years. We are a people of psychological certitude. We know who we are, and we are determined to be who we are. That we are also very much a people living in the 21st century.
Thirty-six percent of our women voted. They are keen to change to change the old image into the new. We are a young country, while ancient. Our youth want opportunities, they welcome globalisation. Our desire is for peace. And for sustainable peace so that peace will be enduring. We see ourselves as the roundabout of Asia. We are a people determined and a government to make sure that forces that are otherwise good forces, that are otherwise seen as contention, meet on a platform of cooperation. So I see the opportunities. We will overcome the challenges no matter what they are.
QUESTION [interpreted]: First welcome. I want to welcome the Secretary General to Afghanistan. Two days ago the NATO forces general command in Afghanistan had the conversation or interview with an international media. Said that you will remove the obstacles or the limits of the international forces in Afghanistan that former President Karzai had laid. What promises you have made in this regard wit h the Secretary General?
GHANI [interpreted]: The security situation needs measurements. . I have tasked my security forces to use the best method in which the civilians’ life could be secured as well as our forces, as sacrifice could be prevented and they bring us, bring me that plan. And they have received that instruction and they want, after keen thinking, we will decide on this.
QUESTION [interpreted]: Hamid [?] from Shamshad TV. Your Excellency, President, currently security is getting worse in many of the provinces and how do you see suitable that by the end of this year the NATO forces are leaving Afghanistan? Do you see it suitable?
GHANI [interpreted]: In our history, Afghans once they had consensus for the international forces to come in Afghanistan to help us. Now, thanks God that with the peoples’ determination our army and national forces are all-volunteer forces. No-one has forced them to come. And now the people of Afghanistan are determined. And that’s why I would like to thank all the security forces who has voluntarily working, serving Afghanistan.
We witness that some who are again and again registering for voluntary service to the forces. NATO mission in the first 1st of January is changed to assisting us in training, in financial support, and equipping our forces. This new chapter, based on this new chapter, we will go ahead.
The current insecurity in the provinces, it’s a change of atmosphere. That the east Asia and Islamic countries are facing that threat. These threats will be changed. It is not a threat against one country, and we are strongly determined that in an integrated effort we will receive to the peace. The national unity govt has a strong commitment to bring peace in Afghanistan and in coming months, step-by-step, we will reach to our national goal, inshallah.
GHANI: Yes please. Yes.
QUESTION: President Ghani, your predecessor didn’t, was not certainly best friends with the former Secretary General. But now you’re both in a honeymoon period, you’re forging a new partnership. How would you describe your personal relationship? And Secretary General Stoltenberg, what is the furthest NATO is prepared to go, if things get worse, in backing Afghan forces in the sky, in targeting Taliban leaders, and with a commitment to when, to 2016, to 2024?
SECRETARY GENERAL: We are going to do what we have planned to do, and what we have agreed to do. And that is to first of all, to end the ISAF mission in an orderly and responsible way. And then we are focusing on how we are going to launch the Resolute Support mission on the 1st of January.
And that is an important mission because that’s the way we are going to continue to be present in Afghanistan by training, advising and assisting Afghan forces and Afghanistan. Making them even more able to take full responsibility for their own security. Then, in addition, as the president said, we are going to finance, we are going to make good on our pledges, promises on financial contributions to the Afghan National Security Forces and we are looking into the long-term relationship, how we can develop a long-term partnership. So we are ending the combat mission, meaning that we are not going to be engaged in combat operations anymore.
So we are starting a new chapter. A chapter where the responsibility for the future of Afghanistan is in the hands of the Afghans. And we can do that because we have done what we set out to do. Our nations are safer, Afghanistan is stronger, and that’s the reason why we are able to move into this new chapter, where we are going to focus on train, assist and advise.
When it comes to the duration of the Resolute Support mission, there has not been any decision taken on the duration. So that’s something I want to discuss later on. But our main focus now is to launch the Resolute Support mission as planned on the 1st of January, being the mission which aims at training, assisting and advising.
GHANI: Let me first thank the Secretary General for having invited me to the NATO Ministerial meeting at the beginning of December, which would be just before the London Conference. I am honoured to accept.
And I begin with that because we need to form a new discourse. A new way of relating, and new mechanisms for our cooperation. President Karzai relation with NATO was not personal. It took place in the context of immense use of force, and whenever immense force is used, it leads to complications. And containing of those was the reason the past President Karzai so graciously asked me to lead the security transition. And I think history will bear witness that the security transition, not once got to your press pages. Because we were focused on a clear objective, delineating a very clear process that I had the honour of suggesting and persuading, and thirdly, we adjusted to each others’ changing contexts.
So we have a recipe for cooperation. This is not a question of a honeymoon; it is a question of creating a sustainable partnership. Honeymoons come and go, sustainable partnerships endure. Our relation with NATO countries, first of all, derives from a sense of mutual threat. Afghanistan is the front-line where NATO country citizens can either live peaceful lives or their lives can be destructed.
Globalisation both has enormously good aspects, but it also has ugly aspects. And the ugly aspect of globalisation means that there are no fortresses. No country can be turned into a fortress, no continent can be turned into a fortress. Europe cannot be a fortress, nor can the United States. We share a common fate that threats have brought us. But the threats were a negative driver of our partnership.
Now we are focusing on value propositions that would bring us forth to sustain and deepen and broaden this. Rights of women. Rights of citizens. Rule of law. Democratic governance. Well-being, governing of our natural resources. Cooperating on environmental issues. So I see a very rich field and no-one better suited than my good friend Mr Stoltenberg to initiate and further this. Both of us are beginning with jobs, so give us please a break. [laughs] So that we can –
SECRETARY GENERAL: And let me just add one thing related to the question of our personal relationship. And that is that I agree with the president, President Ghani, that to use the phrase “honeymoon” is not – what shall I say – a very precise way of describing our relationship. Honeymoon is something which is very nice, and that’s good to have. But it’s not the right way of describing our relationship. Partly because the honeymoon is when you start a relationship.
But we have had a relationship for many years. There are two – shall I say – grown-up men who are working on a long-term relationship and we are developing that together. And I really appreciate to be able to develop my relationship with President Ghani in his new capacity as president, and my new capacity as Secretary General of NATO. But we have been working together, we have met before, and we know each other from our previous capacities. And that makes it even better, and I’m even more certain that we will be able to have a close, good working relationship in our two new capacities.
GHANI: Thank you.