Press conference

by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg following the Resolute Support meeting at the level of Foreign Ministers - Secretary General's opening remarks

  • 01 Dec. 2015 -
  • |
  • Last updated: 07 Apr. 2016 13:48

Good afternoon.

We have just finished a substantive meeting on Afghanistan.

We met with all the Resolute Support Partner nations and we reviewed the progress of our Mission. And the Resolute Support Mission is providing essential training, advice and assistance to the Afghan security forces and to Afghan security and defence institutions. In Kabul but also in several regions of Afghanistan.

Today we took three decisions.

First. We agreed to sustain the presence of our Resolute Support Mission, including in the regions of Afghanistan, during 2016.  This will be approximately 12,000 troops.

And I welcome the strong commitment by Allies and Partners to maintain the level of troop contributions. And it was actually a very important meeting today because so many Allies and so many Partner nations made announcements and pledges regarding the sustained presence in Afghanistan. As always, we will continue to keep the mission under review. And adjust as necessary.

The second decision we made today was to agree to launch further work with the international community to make sure that the Afghan forces continue to be funded.

We will aim for concrete progress on commitments through the year 2020 by the time of our Warsaw Summit next July. We have already had a number of pledges today – and I really welcome that.

So just to explain we made a decision several years ago to fund the Afghan national security forces until 2017 and now we are aiming at making a new decision at our Summit in Warsaw to fund Afghan national security forces until 2020.

The third decision we made was that we agreed to further develop our Enduring Partnership with Afghanistan.

In that respect, we also reaffirmed our commitment to establish a civilian-led presence that will follow after our Resolute Support Mission.

In our discussions today, Foreign Minister Rabbani reaffirmed the Afghan Government’s commitments.

This includes critical reforms related to:

  • leadership development and accountability in the security sector,
  • good governance,
  • the fight against corruption,
  • electoral reform,
  • and the promotion of human rights, including the protection of women’s and children’s rights.

With continued support from NATO, our partners and the wider international community, the Afghan government has committed to making tangible progress by the Warsaw Summit.

Lastly, we welcomed efforts by all parties to further an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led inclusive peace process.

Good neighbourly relations and regional support and cooperation remain essential for the stable Afghanistan that we all want to see. 

JENS STOLTENBERG (NATO Secretary General):  And with that I’m ready to take questions.

MODERATOR:  We’ll start with Radio Free Europe, second row.

Q:  Norias Nori from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. My question is you have mentioned that you have decided today regarding the, the Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan. My question is, the next year’s mission will be some difference than the ongoing missions, do we expect some expansion or some spirit to target the goal, to reach the goal? Thank you.

JENS STOLTENBERG:  Fundamentally it will be the same kind of mission. It will be the same Resolute Support Mission. It will be about training, advising and assisting the Afghan National Army and Security Forces. But of course we will make adjustments, we will learn and we will adjust. But it will be a non-combat mission and it will not expand from the four regional, as I say bases, or places we are located today but we will remain or maintain that regional presence in addition to the presence we have in Kabul. And I think the important thing is that this is a non-combat mission, it’s a mission where we support Afghans because they are now responsible for the security in their own country.

MODERATOR:  Reuters.

Q:  Secretary General you mentioned you’re looking for commitments for the Afghan security forces. Why should NATO allies continue to pay for Afghan security forces?

JENS STOLTENBERG:  Because we are in Afghanistan to prevent that Afghanistan again becomes a safe haven for international terrorists and that is also in our security interest to make sure that that doesn’t happen. So we are in Afghanistan of course to support the Afghans but we are also in Afghanistan to support ourselves because if Afghanistan becomes a safe haven for international terrorists that will also be a threat to us. So we are working with the Afghans to improve and to enhance our shared security by fighting extremism, terrorism together with the Afghans. And that’s the reason why we are continuing to fund them and Afghanistan is still one of the poorest countries in the world so I think this is a good investment we are making when we are enabling the Afghans to fight terrorism and extremism themselves.

MODERATOR:  Georgian Public Broadcasting.

Q:  Georgian Public Broadcasting. Mr. Secretary General after the last meeting of Defence Ministers you told us that Ministers will find ways how to assess the progress made by Georgia in December and in Warsaw Summit. We are still waiting for it, can you tell us what Georgia should expect tomorrow? What will be in the final document about Georgia? Has Georgia all necessary tools for membership or not? And is there consensus about Georgia among member states? Thank you very much.

JENS STOLTENBERG:  So you have been waiting for a long time and now we have to wait for only one more day, because tomorrow we will have a statement, we are working on that now, and then we will of course release it and then I can comment on what we are saying about Georgia and also the other applicant countries. So I’m not able to comment on that now but the plan is to have a statement tomorrow on the open door policy including when it comes to Georgia.

MODERATOR:  Japanese colleague over there.

Q:  Japanese Daily Manichi. My name is Siato. Korea and Japan, only Koreans Japan outside Resolute Support were invited to this meeting. My question is what kind of contribution from international society including the Korea Japan do you expect? The second question is, originally the Afghan Security Forces should be independent, that means the financial help from the international society should be reduced but we must continue to pay for it, how many years beyond 2020 do we expect that international society should pay for it?

JENS STOLTENBERG:  Korea and Japan are invited because they are really contributing to our joint efforts in Afghanistan by funding the Afghan National Security Forces and we very much welcome that. And I think that’s one of the great advantages of the Resolute Support Mission because it’s not only 28 allies, 28 NATO countries, but we have a, many partner nations and also nations as Japan and Korea which are also providing financial funds. And we, we just addressed Georgia, Georgia is a non NATO country but Georgia is actually the second largest force contributor to our Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan, just underlining that this is a really big international joint effort. How long? Well we never made any decisions on the duration of how long we are going to support the Afghan National Security Forces in different ways, but we made a decision several years ago to do it until 2017 but we never stated that we would not, that we will stop then. But that was the commitment we made, I think it was back at the summit in Lisbon and now we are taking the next step and we aim at making decision at the summit in July to make commitments for the period from 2017 or 2018, 19 and 20. So we are then continuing to support Afghan National Security Forces.

MODERATOR:  Associated Press, second row. Second row please.

Q:  Jamey Keaten from Associated Press. Talking about Afghanistan, once upon a time Russia was important because of supply lines going into Afghanistan. I just wanted to know if you could sort of say what the state of play is with Russia and its role with the continuation of Resolute Support. Are they in any way facilitating movement of material, whatnot and particularly given the environment of some tensions in other fronts with Russia?

JENS STOLTENBERG:  You are right that for several years we cooperated with Russia when it comes to using lines of transportation through Russia into Afghanistan. But there is no need for that anymore because the size of the mission is much smaller than it was some years ago when we had more than 100,000 troops, now we are speaking about 12,000 troops so we are not dependent on the land route through Russia, we have other ways to provide the necessary equipment, supplies for our forces in Afghanistan.

MODERATOR:  Kuwaiti News Agency.

Q:  Kuwait News Agency. Sir you spoke about, you said that some pledges were made, some pledges were made to Afghanistan and you also said that [inaudible] 2020 you’re looking for other funds. So what amount of funds are you looking for? To fund the army, and what amount of pledges were made? Thank you.

JENS STOLTENBERG:  I will be very careful starting to mention specific nations because then I’m afraid that I will forget someone. But you know I, many nations made commitments to continue to maintain, sustain their force levels in Afghanistan from 2015 to 2016 or into 2016 and also some nations actually decided to increase. But we will be able to provide you with a specific list later on but the main picture is that we will have approximately the same force level in 20 or during 2016 as we have in 2015. One, I remember one figure and that is that the US provides around or close to 7000 troops of the troops in the Resolute Support Mission and that non-US countries or non-US NATO allies and partners provide approximately 5000. But this is approximately and it’s, but that’s the range of the numbers we are speaking about. When it comes to the exact amount of money we’re looking for that’s also something we have to come back to but we speak about a substantial amount of money which we need to continue to finance the Afghan National Security Forces in the future. So we, and that’s something we will then start to work on and then make decisions in July. So what we decide today is to in a way to start the campaign to mobilize the funds and the financial commitments to continue to finance the Afghan Army.

MODERATOR:  One last question. Europa Press.

Q:  Thank you Secretary General. On Afghanistan, a while ago we had said, well we were assuming the possibility of reducing the current level of Afghan National Security Forces a bit lower from the 3000, no, 352,000 that they have. But given, so meaning that we would reduce as well financial contributions, but given the security situation on the ground will this not be possible? I mean the idea is to maintain the financing at that level of Afghan troops? And are we clear that Resolute Support will finish end of 2016 and then the new civilian mission will kick in, or this is still also to be decided? And yesterday the US were saying that the Daesh ISIL presence in Afghanistan and also some of the other Central Asian countries was still not a big, big, big concern but it was being monitored. Is this also the shared assessment of NATO? Thank you.

JENS STOLTENBERG:  It is still to be decided, what we decided today was to sustain our force levels during 2016, then we will review, we will assess the mission, the challenges, the situation we face in Afghanistan and then we will decide. But I think it’s wrong now to have a, a kind of time line for exactly when we will end our Resolute Support Mission, that’s something which will be based on the developments and our assessments of the situation in Afghanistan. But what we have decided is that even when we end the Resolute Support Mission, because we’re not going to be there forever, then, with the Resolute Support, then we will move into a civilian led, a very strong political partnership and we’ll also then start to prepare for that. So I think we just have to accept that there are so many uncertainties, there are so many challenges, so we have to be prepared, we have to adjust according to how the world is developing. The thing is that we are in Afghanistan because that is in our own security interests, to fight extremism, terrorism and to prevent Afghanistan once again becoming a safe haven for international terrorists.

MODERATOR:  Many thanks, we’ll see you again at around 19:00. Thank you.