Defence Ministers focus on Allied defence capabilities, interoperability

  • 21 Feb. 2013 -
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  • Last updated: 21 Feb. 2013 13:52

Allies must make sure they maintain and build on the gains they made in interoperability and capabilities during the Afghan mission, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said as he arrived for a two-day meeting of defence ministers on Thursday 21 February.

Statement by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen

The ISAF mission has, over the years, driven the modernisation of Allied forces, said the Secretary General. “They have adapted to every challenge and they have learned to work together more closely and effectively than ever before,” he said. “Now we must ensure that we maintain those gains. And that we build on them. So that the next generation of NATO troops is as good at working together as the current generation has become.

Work to improve NATO’s defence capabilities, the ISAF mission in Afghanistan and relations with Ukraine are the main points on the agenda of the ministerial. The 28 defence ministers of NATO nations will on Thursday discuss progress on the Connected Forces Initiative (CFI), which was launched at the Chicago Summit. The initiative aims to preserve and reinforce the skills of cooperation and interoperability which have been built up between Allied forces over a decade of operations.

Mr. Fogh Rasmussen, who will chair the talks, said he expects the ministerial to move the CFI forward, by discussing goals and targets for an intensified training and exercises programme. This is expected to include a new emphasis on the rapid-reaction NATO Response Force. Discussions will also focus on ways to improve capabilities, particularly through multinational cooperation.

On Afghanistan, the Secretary General emphasised that the hand-over of security to Afghan Security Forces is making steady progress. “Compared with two years ago, the Afghan forces are bigger and better. They are taking the lead for security in areas where 87% of the population lives” he said. “Later this year, they will start taking the security lead right across the country, and ISAF’s main effort will shift from combat to support.

A session of the NATO-Ukraine Commission and talks on the Afghan mission with the representatives of the 22 partner countries in ISAF, the Afghan defence minister and representatives of the European Union and United Nations will be held on Friday.