NATO 70th anniversary

Speech by NATO's Senior Civilian Representative in Afghanistan

  • 03 Apr. 2019 -
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  • Last updated: 03 Apr. 2019 15:46

Your Exellency Chief Executive Abdullah,
General Miller, Ministers,
Ambassadors, Chief of General Staff,
Resolute Support colleagues,
Afghan friends,

It’s a great pleasure to address you on the occasion of 70th anniversary of NATO.

As my great friend General Miller said on this happy occasion, let me thank you all for honouring us with your presence.

Second, I would also like to thank RS for organising this great event.

While we celebrate in Kabul, NATO ministers of foreign affairs are gathering in Washington today where the original twelve Allies signed the North Atlantic Treaty in 1949.

This time as we’ve heard there will be 29 ministers sitting around the table with North Macedonia as our soon-to-be 30th Ally.

Well, now while I wish them all well in Washington, personally I’m delighted to be here in Afghanistan on the ground. There is no other country in the world where the bond between NATO and the Afghan people is so strong. If we think about it NATO engagement started close to in 2001 and I am told that in Afghanistan 50 percent at least of the population are under the age of 18. That means that for more than half of all the Afghans only reality they know is Afghanistan and NATO presence.

And on the other side of course, NATO, the men and women, servicemen and civilians, hundreds of thousands have passed through and been in Afghanistan in those years. Hundreds of thousands I would say all who come here and they come to love and respect the Afghan people, the terrifying beauty of Afghanistan’s deserts and mountains, the blueness of its vast skies, the sweetness of Afghanistan’s fruit, the warmth of Afghan hospitality, and the strength of will of Afghans to be free, proud and independent people.


Your Excellencies, Generals,

An alliance bound by shared history, values and goals. And a shared commitment to our collective defence is something we are all proud of.

It solidifies the bond between North America and Europe.


Our presence in Afghanistan today is a testament to this principle of collective defence.

As we have heard from General Miller, after the 9/11 attacks, tens of thousands troops from our countries deployed here alongside the US to ensure Afghanistan would never again become a safe haven for international terrorism.


And our mission has transformed from a combat operation to one now that trains, advises and assists.

And this is because we recognise that the best way to secure ourselves is for Afghanistan to secure itself.

While we celebrate today, we also remember with respect all who have lost their lives in this conflict – military and civilian - Afghan and international.

I pay tribute to the courage and professionalism of the personnel of the forty-one countries that contribute to Resolute Support Mission. 

The presence of so many partners reflects the fact that NATO is no longer just a vehicle for trans-Atlantic security.

 It has become a cornerstone of global security and stability.


Your Excellencies, Generals,

Afghanistan has come a long way since 2001.  Today it is a modern and vibrant emerging democracy.

We all salute the improvements in women’s rights, the millions of children - and notably girls - enrolled in schools, the free press, and notable advancements in health care.

As of last year, Afghanistan had a higher percentage of female MPs in Parliament than in some of our own countries.  Afghans should take the credit for this transformation. 

But we can take pride from the knowledge that it would not have been possible without our presence.

The gains of the last 17 years are very significant and NATO will continue to advocate for a durable political settlement that is built on these.


Your Excellencies, Generals,

You don’t need me to tell you - war is hard.

But peace can sometimes be harder.

It takes courage, vision and trust. 

President Ghani changed the game last  year when he offered unconditional talks to the Taliban.

In 2019, the opportunity for peace is real.

Now it is time to end the war at the negotiating table.

We are encouraged by the progress that Amb Khalilzad has made to date.

NATO will continue to do all we can to support the Afghan government and help Afghan political leaders to build an inclusive, just and enduring peace.

The next step now needs to be an intra-Afghan dialogue where Afghans agree their terms for peace and chart a peaceful future for their country.

This needs to include all stakeholders, women and men, Afghans across generations, and across ethnicities.

And the government must be a central part of it.


Your Excellencies, Generals,

Let me conclude by reassuring you all:

NATO and our partners have stood by the Afghans as they have forged their own destiny.

And we will remain here to assist Afghans until the conditions are right for a change in our posture.

NATO is united in its approach.

We are in Afghanistan together.

And we will take any decisions on our future presence together.


A stable and prosperous Afghanistan is in all our interests - nationally, regionally and internationally.

Because Afghanistan at peace means more stability and security for all of us.

Long live Afghanistan and the NATO partnership

Thank you and happy birthday NATO.