Press conference by the Chairman of the Military Committee, General Knud Bartels
following the 169th meeting of the Military Committee in Chiefs of Staff session - Opening remarks
Good afternoon and thank you for coming.
I am going to give you a feedback on the meeting which has taken place over the last couple of days. So I would brief you on the outcome of the NATO Military Committee Meetings in Chiefs of Defence format, which took place yesterday and today here at NATO Headquarters.
On Afghanistan, NATO and Partner Chiefs of Defence reaffirmed their commitment to support the ISAF Commander over the next 19 months, which will be crucial in determining the outcome of the mission. As we approach the completion of the ISAF campaign, our mission in Afghanistan is entering a new phase. Its primary task is changing from leading a counter-insurgency campaign to providing training, advice and assistance to the Afghan National Security Forces, as they assume the lead for security across the country. We will support a comprehensive counter-insurgency effort until the end of 2014, and this will be increasingly Afghan-led. NATO and Partner Chiefs of Defence acknowledge the increased capability of the Afghan National Security Forces to provide security for their country. They continue to improve operationally, and they have reached 95 per cent of their goal – which is 352,000 personnel. They are already in the lead across much of Afghanistan and their progress in the areas of planning, coordination, execution and sustaining large-scale operations is now evident. Transition therefore remains on track and our assessment is on the whole positive.
NATO Chiefs of Defence also discussed Afghanistan post-2014 and the new mission, RESOLUTE SUPPORT. We made good progress and details on the Concept of Operations for the new mission will be finalized in the coming weeks, ready for the Defence Ministers to discuss next month, in the beginning of June.
For KFOR, we remain optimistic with regard to the security situation in Kosovo. We recognize a significant step towards normalizations in the relationship between Kosovo and Serbia, demonstrated by the recent agreement brokered by the European Union. We also reflected on its possible implication for KFOR, which we will return to when we next meet in Budapest in September. And NATO will continue to ensure a safe and secure environment throughout Kosovo.
In the Georgia session, we discussed the implementation of their defence reforms, which is an important element in Georgia’s ambition for Euro-Atlantic integration. We all appreciate the progress made, particularly in a period of limited resources and shifting security challenges. We also took the opportunity to express NATO’s gratitude for Georgia’s significant contribution to ISAF and its commitment to participate in the post-2014 mission. Georgia continues to move closer to NATO through intensive and successful military-to-military cooperation.
In the Ukraine session, we thanked Ukraine for its continued contributions to NATO-led operations and the NATO Response Force. Ukraine will also be participating in Operation OCEAN SHIELD later this year, and they will be the first NATO Partner nation to make a significant contribution to this important NATO-led counter piracy operation. Ukraine has also expressed its readiness to contribute to RESOLUTE SUPPORT in Afghanistan. We will continue to develop opportunities for practical military cooperation in order to improve interoperability of our forces.
With Russia, the Chiefs of Defence were supportive for the ongoing cooperation between NATO and Russia through the 2013 Work Plan, and discussed new initiatives for the development of the 2014 Work Plan, particularly with regard to maritime cooperation in the Mediterranean. Throughout our discussions, we recognized the mutual benefits in a closer dialogue. In this context, I am particularly grateful for General Gerasimov’s personal engagement, demonstrated in the three phone calls he and I have had together this year. These calls allow for open and frank discussions and facilitate quick communication. The Chiefs of Defence demonstrated their commitment to transparency by sharing information on operations and exercises. In particular, we provided our Russian counterparts with an extensive brief on the NATO Military Exercise STEADFAST JAZZ 2013, which will take place in early November in a number of Allied nations, including the Baltic States and Poland. We explained the purpose of the exercise, which is to train and test the NATO Response Force, a high readiness and technologically advanced multinational force made up of land, air, maritime and special forces components that the Alliance can deploy quickly wherever needed. STEADFAST JAZZ will provide an important opportunity for the NATO Response Force to train and exercise together, and enhance their interoperability. In the months to come, we will continue to build with Russia on reciprocal transparency on military exercises, enhancing mutual understanding.
Today, NATO Chiefs of Defence focused on transformation, addressing a wide range of ongoing and future initiatives – including Smart Defence and the Connected Forces, which aim to achieve best value for money while building on lessons learned from operations. Chiefs of Defence stressed the importance of preserving capacity, as well as capability. Defence spending across the Alliance must be coherent, complementary and matched to future threats. As NATO’s operational tempo is expected to decrease after 2014, emphasis will be placed on training to maintain force readiness. NATO Chiefs of Defence provided clear commitment and guidance to the NATO future training and exercises concept. The Military Committee also discussed a high visibility exercise – due to take place in 2015 – which will mark the shift in NATO’s operational focus and test both our new Command and Force Structures.
As you can see, we had a quite full agenda over the last two days. I’ve given you this overview, and I am now ready to take your questions.