Joint press conference
with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the President of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani
Thank you so much, President Ghani.
It is really a great pleasure to meet you again and to be together with you here again in Kabul.
We have met many times but it’s always a particular pleasure to be here in Kabul and to meet with you and your ministers and your delegation and to discuss many different issues we all are addressing together. Then it’s also a great pleasure to be here today together with the Chairman of the Military Committee in NATO, Air Chief Marshal Peach and also SACEUR General Scaparrotti and Ambassador Zimmerman and General Miller. All these men are really committed to the NATO mission here in Afghanistan and that was also the clear message from the NATO Summit in July, that NATO will stay committed to our mission in Afghanistan and committed to provide support to the Afghans security forces and to the Afghan government.
President Ghani, your love for this country – and for the Afghan people – is really inspiring.
So I want to begin by thanking you and paying tribute to your leadership.
And by thanking you for our excellent meeting this afternoon.
I also want to congratulate you and the people of Afghanistan on the recent parliamentary elections.
Four million people voted, a third of whom were women.
In the face of Taliban threats, the Afghan people showed determination to stand and be counted – with resilience and courage.
Effective security is important to safeguard democracy.
And for the first time, the Afghan forces assumed full responsibility for security during the elections.
This is an important achievement.
I look forward to a smooth completion of the election process.
And to the presidential election in the spring of next year.
NATO is determined to see Afghanistan succeed. That’s why around 16,000 troops from 39 different countries serve in our Resolute Support Mission. Together, we train, advise and assist the Afghan forces as they work to make this country safer and more secure. And prevent it from ever again becoming a safe haven for international terrorism.
In our meeting today, I made clear that NATO’s support will continue.
At the NATO Summit we decided to sustain our presence until conditions indicate a change is appropriate.
And to extend financing to the Afghan forces through 2024.
Our support is improving the Afghan Special Forces and Air Forces in particular. There are now more than 20,000 Afghan Special Operations Forces. Among the very best in this region. And last year, the Afghan Air Force conducted more than 2,000 missions. And actually when I landed at the airport yesterday I saw the planes, the helicopters which actually demonstrate the strength of the Afghan Air Forces.
Today, President Ghani and I discussed the security situation in the country.
No-one underestimates the scale of the challenge. And the situation remains serious.
Afghan soldiers and police are on the front lines of this conflict. Many are killed or wounded every week. And I pay tribute to their bravery and loyalty. The insurgents have also killed scores of Afghan civilians. I call on the Taliban and other insurgent groups to stop killing their fellow Afghans. The use of suicide bombers in urban areas and the indiscriminate use of roadside bombs demonstrates a careless disregard for civilian lives. The Taliban must understand that continuing the fight is pointless and counterproductive. To be part of Afghanistan’s future, they must sit down at the negotiating table.
That is why Allies strongly welcomed President Ghani’s peace proposal. And the successful June ceasefire.
I also want to thank Chief Executive Abdullah for his commitment to these efforts. The potential for peace is greater now than it has been in many years. So we need an Afghan-led and an Afghan-owned peace process. And it must be inclusive.
We also count on the government to meet its commitments for good governance, the rule of law, fighting corruption, and protecting the rights of all – especially women. So I congratulate you on your efforts. And I call on all countries in the region to play a constructive role. And to deny safe haven to extremist groups.
President Ghani, thank you once again.
NATO stands with Afghanistan. Because stability in this country is important for your security, but also for our security.
We stand together in the fight against international terrorism.