Joint press conference
by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Aghan President Ghani following the meeting of the North Atlantic Council with Resolute Support Potential Operational Partner Nations - Secretary General's opening remarks
We have just finished an excellent meeting with Foreign Ministers from NATO and with the fourteen partners that will contribute to our new mission in Afghanistan.
Today, we decided to launch the Resolute Support Mission on the first of January 2015.
This is really a significant moment for us and for Afghanistan.
Resolute Support will be a non-combat mission.
Around 12,000 troops from NATO Allies and partners will train, advise and assist the Afghan National Security Forces.
And ensure that we continue to build on the gains we have made in Afghanistan.
And therefore, it is really fitting to have the President of Afghanistan here together with us, and also together with Chief Executive Dr. Abdullah. They were present at the meeting and they gave introductions. They also received very unified and strong response and support from NATO and from the partners. We are welcoming very much the new spirit we see in our partnership, the partnership between NATO and Afganistan. joined us to mark the start of this new chapter in our cooperation.
So, I thank you President very much for being here, for your remarks and for the partnership we are developing together.
I visited Afghanistan last month. And I heard the high hopes of young Afghans for the future.
I saw the determination of the Afghan forces. And I spoke to ISAF soldiers, who have taken pride in the work they have done, as our combat mission comes to a close.
We are really grateful for their service and their sacrifice. Men and women. Civilian and military.
From Afghanistan and from around the world.
For more than a decade, NATO Allies and partners have stood side-by-side with Afghanistan in a common cause.
ISAF brought together 50 nations in an effort without precedent.
Afghanistan is no longer a safe haven for international terrorists.
Our nations are safer. And Afghanistan is stronger. With a national force of 350,000 soldiers and police.
But the people of Afghanistan now have the chance for a better future. And that future is in their own hands.
At the end of this year, Afghan forces will assume full responsibility of the security of the nation.
But our support will continue. Our new Resolute Support Mission is only part of the picture.
Today, we reaffirmed that we will continue to contribute to the funding of the Afghan forces for 2015 and beyond.
And we will strengthen the NATO-Afghanistan Enduring Partnership.
Today, we agreed to set up a taskforce to take this Enduring Partnership forward and we are going to start work immediately.
We welcome the determination of the National Unity Government to implement urgently needed reform. To promote good governance, accountability, and human rights, including the rights of women.
The Afghan people have chosen the path of peace, democracy and stability.
And we want to preserve the gains we have made together. For the benefit of Afghanistan, the whole region, and global peace and security.
So, Mr. President, it is a great honour to have you here and I give the floor to you, please.
MODERATOR: So we've got time for some questions. We can start over there, One TV.
Q: My question is from President Ghani and I prefer to ask it in Dari, if you don't mind. [Voice of translator] Mr. President, as you know, the RSM is going to start, but we see that there has been an increase, increase in the attacks of the insurgents. And you see yourself Kabul, what kind of situation exists in Kabul. So it shows that in case of the withdrawal, full withdrawal of the… of the international forces from the southern parts of Afghanistan, it shows that actually after this withdrawal, the casualties of the international… of all our forces have become more and more.
So do you think, how… how could you be sure, and what are the points that makes you… makes you sure that you will be able to provide security with the Afghan… Afghan forces?
ASHRAF GHANI (President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan): [Voice of translator] The first thing—this is what the President says—the first thing is that the… the stability of Afghanistan is a need for everybody. And when the international forces are coming out, this is not a politi… there is absolutely no political reason that… that is… you know, that there should be more attacks on the civilian people.
The ulemas of Afghanistan, all the mosques in Afghanistan, all the scholars, they are… in Afghanistan, they say that the civilian people shouldn't be killed. From all the mosques of Afghanistan, there is… the voice of calling for peace is raised and they all call for cooperating with the international… with all forces.
The other issue, secondly, don't underestimate the morale of our… of our… our forces. Unfortunately, the media in Afghanistan, most of the time, they don't pay enough attention to the people who are actually providing security for us.
As the… the high command of the forces in Afghanistan, I am actually proud of them. I am defending every martyr. I am defending every wounded person. They have great morale, they have great leadership, and the leadership is being changed, being improved.
I have accepted the resignation… the… the… the retirement of 15 generals and also in the police forces. And there is a coordination, there is a general coordination between the forces of Afghanistan and it has improved. In fact, there are more ways, more certain ways of making sure that there are better security in Afghanistan. There are already; after the London conference, you will see for yourself that there will be more coordinated activities in this regard.
The other issue I wanted to say, and I have… I have always repeated it, is that the more attacks is carried out by the insurgents, in fact, the less it is… it is… it is possible that we go away from our aim, which is security and peace. So the aim of those attacks are in fact to try to… to distance between us and peace, and also to put question, under question… to put question basically the… the National Unity Government.
But they have to know that neither are we going to distance ourselves from our peace, nor the government support will decrease. So the challenges that exist in terms of security in Afghanistan, we have studied them properly and our forces have the capabilities to defend our land.
Also, in the past 5,000 years of history that we have, this is the first time in the 13… in the 15 years… in the 5,000 years, this is the first time we have asked a foreign forces to come and defend us. This is not our tradition. This is not what we do. You in the future, you will see that the people of Afghanistan, the… the… all the people of Afghanistan from every walk of life, they are going to be united together and they are going to defend the land that we have inherited and they are going to deliver this land to the future generation.
Q: First from NATO's Secretary General. NATO's military mission is about to close. Meanwhile, violence is increasing in these days. And ANSF need more support and like the airstrikes, heavy weapons. If Europe… if Europe… if Europe has a need for… for NATO military operations, will NATO join back in military operations side by side with ANSF?
JENS STOLTENBERG (Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation): The Resolute Support mission is a non-combat mission, but we really assessed the situation in a way that we believe that this is the right thing to do. After more than 10 years, 13 years of military presence in Afghanistan, we believe that we now have reached a point where it's the right thing to do to end the ISAF mission and then to open a new chapter.
And… and I would like to underline that that doesn't mean that NATO is leaving Afghanistan. We will still be there. We will be there with the Resolute Support mission. But in addition, we will continue to support the Afghan National Security Forces financially with funds.
And thirdly, we are also now starting the work with a task force to look into what the content of the Enduring Partnership can be, because we are actually working with Afghanistan in three ways: with the Resolute Support, with the financial support for the Afghan National Forces, and then with the Enduring Partnership. We have just started to develop that… that partnership.
The Resolute Support mission is a non-combat mission. The United States is of course an important part of the Resolute Support mission, but in addition, the United States have some other forces who are taking… who are responsible for counter-terrorism operations in Afghanistan. And I know that there has been some dialogue between United States and Afghanistan related to what kind of enablers and additional support can be provided by the United States, but I'll leave that to the United States and Afghanistan to sort out.
MODERATOR: National Public Radio?
Q: Teri Schultz with NPR and CBS. Mr. President, with the high-profile attacks as my colleague mentioned, aren't you concerned that because the Taliban have… are now attacking so much more intensively inside Kabul, attacking foreign aid workers, having gotten inside Camp Bastion, aren't you worried that this doesn't portray the… that doesn't… it won't give investors confidence as you head into… donors' confidence as you head into London, do you really think that your armed forces are ready for the combat mission to end? What can you do to convince people that your government is ready, that your cabinet-creation powers are ready, and that your armed forces can really protect… protect your people and the foreign aid workers who are going to still be in the country? Thanks.
ASHRAF GHANI: Thank you.
First, countries that are 10 to 100 times wealthier than us and better armed, have not been able to prevent acts of terror within their capitals or major cities. So the measure has to be comparative. You cannot have an absolute measure.
Could you have prevented 9/11 from occurring? We need to be understanding what kind of world we are living, with people who have such debased values that they will attack children on a volleyball playing field, and civilians.
For every attack that takes place, our forces have been able to prevent tens if not hundreds. But we have inherited a situation that is complex, and our focus is to ensure that the vicious circle ends.
We are not dealing with investors in London. We're dealing… I think it was how you spoke, but it's a "misframing"[?]. It is our international… we are seeking on the side investors, but our fundamental approach today and London is with our partners' countries. These countries are making commitments on the basis of a well-articulated programme that focuses on accountability, on transparency, on rule of law, given the environment that we deal with.
If you look at Malaysia, if you look at Singapore, if you look at South Korea, they all experienced conditions similar to us in the 1950s and 60s. They were able to overcome them with determined leadership, with a clear sense of vision and with pragmatic approaches. That's what we intend to do.
Had the job not been difficult, I would have not run for it. The task is challenging, the challenges are great, but we have no other options but to take the situation in hand and we deal with it.
Are our armed forces ready? Our armed forces are all volunteers. There is not a single person within our armed forces who is compelled to be there. And they are renewing their enlistment for the third and fourth time. That should speak to our spirit and I hope that you will be able to bring the leadership management changes within our security forces that would make it even more compelling for our soldiers and our policemen and women to sacrifice.
Just one last… you know, we've had examples where a police, unarmed or very lightly armed, literally embraced a suicide bomber, sacrificing their lives in order to ensure that civilians are spared. With that spirit, you can count on us to continue.
MODERATOR: We have time for one last very quick question from Killid Radio.
Q: I would like Mr. Secretary to answer my question. How does NATO intend to support effort to promote stability in the region? Thank you.
JENS STOLTENBERG: Stability?
JENS STOLTENBERG: In the region?
Q: In the region, Afghanistan and the region.
JENS STOLTENBERG: First of all I would like to agree with what President Ghani said, and that is that threats are also interlinked in our world today, and we see that in this region. And therefore there can be no stability in the region without stability and peace in Afghanistan. So our efforts to try to create stability and peace in Afghanistan is also an effort to contribute to peace and stability in the whole region. So everything we do in Afghanistan also affects the stability of the whole region.
Second, I would like to commend the President and the new government for their very active outreach and approach to the whole region. His visit to Afghanistan [sic], his active policy and diplomacy towards many other countries, I think that's key for creating stability in the region. So I very much welcome and support the efforts by the Afghan government and the President to approach the whole region in the efforts to create stability both in Afghanistan and in the region.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much indeed. Good evening.
ASHRAF GHANI: Thank you.
JENS STOLTENBERG: Thank you.