by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg following the meeting of the North Atlantic Council with Resolute Support Operational Partner Nations and Potential Operational Partner Nations
Good afternoon. We have just finished an excellent meeting with Foreign Minister Rabbani.
And we took a major decision which shows that we stay committed to Afghanistan.
Today, we agreed that we will maintain a presence in Afghanistan. Even after the end of our current mission, Resolute Support.
Unlike our present mission and our combat operation before it, our future presence will be led by civilians.
It will have a light footprint. But it will have a military component.
We have tasked NATO’s civilian and military authorities to develop a plan for this continued NATO presence by the autumn.
Our aim will be to advise and instruct the Afghan security institutions.
To help them become self-sufficient.
And to build on what we have achieved so far, as part of a broader international effort.
NATO, Afghanistan and our partners have indeed come a long way over the last decade.
We have completed the transition to Afghan security responsibility across the country. And we have made a smooth transition from our combat operation to our current mission to train, advise and assist the Afghan national forces.
Afghan soldiers and police have stood up against enormous challenges.
They have made great sacrifices. Afghanistan has laid the foundation for a stable future.
And NATO Allies and partners will stay the course.
Over the years, many of our partners have contributed to combat and to training. Others have provided financial and technical assistance.
We count on their continued support. Afghan men and women count on continued international support to build a better future. There are still many challenges, many challenges and difficulties ahead.
But I am confident that the Afghan people will rise to the challenge. And we will continue to stand with them.
JENS STOLTENBERG (NATO Secretary General): (...) Then I am ready for your questions.
OANA LUNGESCU (NATO Spokesperson): We'll start with our Afghan colleagues over there. Pajhwok News Agency, please.
Q: Thank you, Mister Secretary General. I'm Javed from Afghanistan. Any progress in this process will affect natural deadline beyond 2016?
JENS STOLTENBERG: First of all, I would like to emphasize that I very much welcome the personal leadership and commitment by President Ghani to pursue a dialogue and to try to reach a political solution to the challenges which Afghanistan is facing.
And lasting peace in Afghanistan requires a political solution. And this has to be an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned political process and political solution. And I very much believe that any lasting political solution has to rest on three fundamental principles.
It has to break all ties with international terrorism. It has to implement... that Taliban renounce violence and compliance with... and commit to be in compliance with the Afghan constitution, including the rights of women.
So we are following all efforts to try to reach a political solution very closely. But we are now focussed on our mission: the Resolute Support. And then we hope that it is possible to reach a political solution.
OANA LUNGESCU: Radio Azadi?
Q: I'm Friba Wihidy from Afghan Media. The Afghan people are quite concerned about the high casualty rate of Afghan national security forces throughout the RS mission. Plus the security situation, and the country does not seem so promising as well. What will be the objective of new presence after the end of the RS mission in Afghanistan? If you could kindly give more details on that, it would be great.
JENS STOLTENBERG: As I have stated several times, also today, I've stated that Afghanistan still faces many challenges and many difficulties. And I also stated in my opening remarks to the meeting this morning that Afghanistan still remains a dangerous place.
So I think we all have to just accept that it is a big and great challenge to have the responsibility for the security in the country. And this is the first year the Afghan National Security Forces have the full responsibility of the security in the whole of their country. And I think no one thought that it was going to be an easy task. So I think that the challenges the Afghan National Security Forces are facing just underlines the importance of ... that NATO and our partners continue to support the Afghan forces and continue to support Afghanistan. And that's exactly what we do to the Resolute Support mission which is about train, advise and assist. And that's exactly what we have decided to do also in the future. Because we're going to continue to support Afghanistan to the Enduring Partnership which is going to be there also after we end the Resolute Support mission.
OANA LUNGESCU: DPA? Lady in the front row!
Q: Alexandra Major-Udall with the German Press Agency DPA. On the Enduring Partnership, I know it's still early days. But can you say anything about whether it's going to be a smaller amount of troops than what we're seeing now with Resolute Support? And then a second question if I may was there any discussion today about financing for the Afghan Forces - how is that going to look after 2017. Thank you.
JENS STOLTENBERG: There are many years ago since we decided to have an Enduring Partnership in Afghanistan after the end of the Resolute Support. But now we are starting to decide on the content, on the substance of this Enduring Partnership; because so far the Enduring Partnership have been more, what should I say, some kind of project which we were going to launch later on. But where we didn't define so much about the concrete content of the Enduring Partnership.
What we have done today is to start to define the content of the Enduring Partnership by endorsing the guidelines and the principles for the Enduring Partnership. And we have stated that it's going to be a civilian-military partnership. And we're going to have a civilian-military presence in Afghanistan also after the Resolute Support.
And that's an important decision because it says something about the content of the partnership; when we announce that we are going to have both military and civilian presence, in Afghanistan, also after the end of the Resolute Support.
Second, we have stated that it's going to be a civilian-led partnership. And that's something new; because both the ISAF mission, the combat mission, but also the present Resolute Support Mission, is military-led. It's led by a military commander. Now, it's going to be... the Enduring Partnership is going to be led by a civilian representative.
And then we speak about a light footprint; but a military component. We have not decided anything... so finally about the exact size and the number of personnel which are going to be in Afghanistan. But when we speak about a light footprint, I think everyone envisages something which is smaller than the present number of personnel. But still we're going to have both military and civilian personnel in Afghanistan. And of course this requires continued commitments from the NATO Allies and from partner countries.
OANA LUNGESCU: We'll go over there. Gentleman of the back.
Q: Hello, I'm from Russia, from Saint Petersburg. You know, this beautiful city close to the northwest border. And my question is for how long time and for what purpose thousands of NATO soldiers stay in Baltic region, in Baltic countries for how long and for what purpose? Thank you.
JENS STOLTENBERG: NATO has increased its military presence in the Eastern part of our Alliance including in the Baltic region as a direct response to the behaviour of a more assertive Russia and a Russia which is responsible for aggressive actions in Ukraine by illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea and to destabilizing Eastern Ukraine.
And NATO's main and core task is to protect and defend all Allies against any threat. And we have to provide deterrence every day. And we have to make sure that we are able to defend all Allies. And that's the reason why we have increased our military presence in the Eastern part of the Alliance. What we do is defensive. It is proportionate. And it's fully in line with our international commitments. We have increased air policing. We have increased our naval presence in the Baltic Sea and also the Black Sea and we have also more exercises because we have to deliver on our main responsibility. And that is collective defence. And it is a response to what we have seen from the Russian side.
OANA LUNGESCU: Thank you very much that's all we have time for at this moment. But the Secretary General will be back later on in the afternoon. Thank you.
JENS STOLTENBERG: Thank you.