Weekly press briefing by NATO Spokesman, James Appathurai
JAMES APPATHURAI (NATO Spokesman): Colleagues, let me very quickly run through a couple of issues, and then I'm very happy to take your questions for as long as you can avoid going out into the sun.
But we have, just to... for those of you who didn't hear at the back, we had a number of USB sticks with the Summit programme that have been, I think, handed out and we have the Afghanistan Report, which my press service put together, which basically summarizes our assessment of where we are in the three areas in which NATO has either a supporting or a lead role, the lead role being security, the supporting roles being governance and development.
We have tried, as we did last year, to give you a balanced view, not just the sort of, the strictly NATO assessment, but not only where things are going well, but also where things are going less well. The statistics and numbers in there we think are reliable. They're not just ours, though we have confidence in ours, but also from the UN and other sources.
So I commend it to you. It is online as well, but it's nicer to hold it in your hand, so here it is. It will also be at the Summit.
A quick word on yesterday, the meeting in The Hague. Let me say from a personal point of view that it was very, very impressive the way in which the Dutch government put together this extremely complicated and large meeting in such an incredibly efficient and pleasant way. It was really quite surprising how well it was done, from an organizational point of view.
From a substance point of view it was also a very positive development. In a real sense the meeting was the message. This was the manifestation of the regional approach that we have not seen before: Eighty-plus delegations, very strong UN leadership and the willingness of all the parties around the table to be led by the United Nations with regard to Afghanistan; engagement by the neighbouring states, politically, in Afghanistan's future; the presence, of course, of Iran being a powerful symbol of that; the pledges that were made around the table. I think tens of millions of euros and dollars have been pledged for Afghanistan in many different areas; election support, civil development et cetera. This was not a pledging conference either in terms of money or in terms of forces, but it was, I think, a powerful political signal of the international engagement on Afghanistan and it was, as such, very, very welcome.
The NATO Secretary General made an appeal there for funding for a trust fund that NATO will manage, for supporting the expanded Afghan National Army. As you know, the ANA is expanding; going up from its current ceiling of around 80,000 up to 134,000, and then it will need to be sustained.
NATO now has a trust fund for enlarging the... or for funding the enlargement of the Afghan National Army, but once it is in enlarged it will need to be sustained, so NATO has opened a bank account into which any country or any organization around the world can put funds in. It's not my bank account, sadly. And... but the phone number of the guy who's managing the bank account is on our website.
So if anybody's interested...
...the original press release that was sent to my office had the bank account number on it, but I thought it was an invitation to the hackers of the world to put that account number in, so we took it off. But his phone number's there, and if you want to call him and make a contribution you are very welcome.
More seriously, it is $2 billion a year that we assess to be the sustainment costs of the Afghan National Army, which looks like a big bill at a time when wallets can be a little bit bare, the international wallets can be a little bit bare, but we want to put this into the proper context. We are spending, by any estimate, tens of billions of dollars a year on the military operation if you add up what each one of the 42 countries is spending on this operation. So this is an investment now to be able to perhaps spend less in future. Not simply an additional cost ad infinitum.
So that is what the Secretary General appealed for and you can go to the website. The first story is on that.
Let me now turn to the next couple of days. Tomorrow NATO will open, in the context of the Summit, a Youth Forum. NATO in 2020: What lies ahead, is the subject of it. This is in cooperation with the Atlantic Treaty Organization, the U.S. Atlantic Council, the Office Franco-Allemande pour la Jeunesse, the École Nationale d'Administration ENA, and France 3 Alsace. The Public Diplomacy Division will host a Youth Forum entitled NATO in 2020: What lies ahead. It will take place on the margins of the Summit. The Secretary General will make opening remarks, followed by a question-and-answer session tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. There will be about 300 students and young professionals from more than 50 countries to discuss future security challenges and NATO's role in an evolving security environment.
Some of the speakers include: Mr. Claudio Cordone of Amnesty International, Dan Hamilton of Johns Hopkins University, Bernard-Henri Lévy, Philosopher, Mr. Ed Lucas from The Economist, Gideon Rachman from The Financial Times, Ahmed Rashid, who I'm sure you all know, a very well-known author, Tomas Ries from the Swedish Institute for International Affairs, Dr. Irina Kobrinskaya from the PSI Foundation and Ari Vatanen, of course an MEP whom you all know. It will be moderated by a colleague of yours, Steve Erlanger and Mr. Cherno Jobatey, and I cannot for the life of me pronounce this: the Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen. I hope that was not broadcast.
It will be taking place at the Maison de la Radio, which is the France 3 Alsace building. So Maison de la Radio, France 3 Alsace, Place de Bordeaux, Strasbourg.
Q: (Inaudible...) livestream it?
APPATHURAI: We will livestream it. We will livestream it. Six p.m. is when the SecGen will open it.
Then we go to the meeting itself. And many of you are familiar with some of the details, but let me give you the outline again.
I think before I come to the substance of the discussions one very important step will take place in that we will welcome the Heads of State and Government of Albania and Croatia for the first time formally to a Summit table in alphabetical order. Because sometime this afternoon, I suspect in the next hour, they will formally join the Alliance. The United States will notify the Secretary General that all the necessary steps in terms of instruments... the deposit of instruments of ratification have taken place. We will send out a media advisory the exact minute that it happens, but sometime this afternoon they will formally become NATO members in the working committees in NATO starting tomorrow. They will move from being next to the chair, where they have been since they were invited to join and where they have not had a voice in the decision-making, to alphabetical order.
So starting tomorrow they take their seats and we will... the Heads of State and Government will welcome two Heads of State and Governments formally at the Summit and something we welcome very, very much. This is an historic day for them and an historic... will be an historic day for us as well.
Q: So does that mean as from Friday NATO has 28 (inaudible...)...
APPATHURAI: As from this afternoon NATO... as from this afternoon NATO will have 28 members and not 26.
APPATHURAI: This... well, we will make the announcement when it happens.
APPATHURAI: All the steps have been completed, or will have been completed within the next, as I say, within the next hour.
So that aside, there will be a working dinner in Baden-Baden on the 3rd of April. The main two topics will be the Alliance's future and its approach to meeting new security challenges. That's topic one. Topic two will be NATO's relations with Russia.
On the Alliance's future, you will recall that in Bucharest Heads of State and Government requested the Council to prepare a declaration on Alliance security for adoption at this Summit. That is what they are working on now.
Ministers of Foreign Affairs may give the final tweaks or not, depending on whether it's necessary at the Summit, but in essence it will reiterate NATO's fundamentals, collective defence. It will also set out a vision of NATO's partnerships, its future missions, and it should also give the green light to start work on revising the Strategic Concept, to have a new adapted Strategic Concept to be adopted at the next Summit, the one following this one.
This discussion, the Strategic Concept discussion, will, of course, range across all the issues relating to what NATO should do and what NATO should be in the 21st Century. And that will, of course, not just affect NATO, but NATO's relations with other international organizations, other countries. And the discussion on the Friday night will start that reflection.
President Obama was very clear to the Secretary General when the Secretary General visited him last week and that is that he wishes to have a substantive discussion about the future of NATO on Friday evening.
The second topic of discussion will be the nature and substance of NATO's relations with Russia. Following the December and March foreign ministerial decisions on political re-engagement with Russia what the Heads of State and Government will do will be to examine the political and practical steps that need to be taken.
Where can our core cooperation be strengthened? Are there new areas of additional cooperation that can be sought? How can the NRC be made better use of to address differences, to work on issues of common interest? And clearly there are issues of common interest, on Afghanistan where we share the interest in stability, on fighting terrorism, perhaps on the fight against piracy.
And I should be clear that in looking for strengthening cooperation NATO is in no way moving off of its disapproval of what has happened in Georgia, both in terms of the conduct of the conflict in August, but in particular, or also the recognition of the two Georgian republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent and the building of Russian infrastructure on those... or in those republics and on Georgian territory against the will of the Georgian government.
In parallel to the dinner there will be two other dinners: Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Ministers of Defence will be meeting to discuss different issues. The Ministers of Foreign Affairs will discuss, alongside the Declaration on Alliance Security, if that's necessary, the situation in the Western Balkans and including Kosovo.
Defence Ministers will have the opportunity to discuss defence transformation. In other words, how do we ensure that we have the forces that we need to do the things that we have to do.
On Saturday morning, on the 4th of April, there will first be a ceremony at the Passerelle des Deux Rives in Kehl. In other words, the Heads of State and Government, with the exception of President Sarkozy, will start on the German side of the Rhine River, cross the bridge, and be met by President Sarkozy in the middle of the bridge.
Q: (Inaudible...) France is coming back?
APPATHURAI: Well, they'll meet in the middle. I think that's exactly... exactly how it should be.
They will meet in the middle. There will be a brief... and then proceed to the French side, where of course the Summit will then take place. There will be a military ceremony there at the bridge and then again at the North Atlantic Council meeting in Strasbourg there will be a ceremony paying tribute to our soldiers. The discussion on Saturday will focus, of course, around operations, but I think principally very much around Afghanistan.
And they will wish to address a number of issues. One is the broad strategic approach. We have a strategy in NATO, a comprehensive political military plan, they will endorse, that has been constantly revised. It will always be revised. It is a living document. They will endorse it. But they will also wish to have a discussion, of course, of President Obama's strategy, the initiatives that he has announced and how those fit in with the overall NATO approach, how the overall NATO approach should take account of the U.S. strategy, and the different investments that the United States is making.
That broad strategic discussion will take place with a separate but much more practical discussion and that is how do we meet the immediate requirements that we as an Alliance have to meet our commitments with regard to Afghanistan. What does that mean? The Secretary General would like to see NATO meet its requirements for election support. We need, in essence, four battalions of extra forces, above and beyond what the United States is providing, for the election period, in the run-up to the elections, through a potential run-off, which might take place after Ramadan, if that's necessary, so in October.
So election support forces - we need them, the Secretary General would like to see them.
OMLTs, embedded training teams, as the United States calls them, though NATO's are slightly different. Small training teams that are embedded with Afghan battalions. We are short 13. We have 52. we're short 13 OMLTs, Mentoring and Liaison Teams. We would like to see those also provided by allies by the Summit.
Third, police training. This will be a theme of the year, I am quite sure. All of the allies believe, and I think the United Nations believe, the Afghan authorities also believe, that we need to invest much more in police training. That has to include gendarmerie training, paramilitary training and that it should be done in a coherent way.
The Secretary General has said he wishes to see the creation by the Summit of a... or an agreement to create by the allies, a NATO Training Mission Afghanistan similar to what we have in Iraq. We have a NATO training mission in Iraq. Which would bring together the various training initiatives for the various different security bodies, Afghan security bodies in Afghanistan, to ensure that there is a coherent and effective approach.
This, of course, would have, I believe will have a very strong European element. I don't know what exactly the modalities will be, but he would like to see a NATO Training Mission Afghanistan, which as I say, would bring together the relevant training efforts, if not all, then most of the relevant training efforts in Afghanistan - army and police.
Finally, he would like to see, and this is not necessarily by the time of the Summit, but certainly in the coming weeks if there will be other international bodies, such as the European Union, the OSCE or others, the UN, who might be deploying observers for the election, that NATO would find a way to provide the necessary support to them.
Though I'm not sure that this will necessarily be a Summit deliverable, not least because the other bodies have not yet firmed up exactly what it is that they will do and how they will do it. But certainly that is a desire of his.
There will be a Summit declaration on Afghanistan. There will be a communiqué, which goes through all the various issues. All of these are being drafted now, so you will have a declaration on Alliance security, which will, we believe, we hope, launch a strategic concept process. There will be a stand-alone statement on Afghanistan and there will be a third document, that is the communiqué, which obviously doesn't repeat what's in the other two.
Finally, two points. They will be asked to endorse a reform package for NATO Headquarters. The Secretary General, after five and a half years as Secretary General is convinced that we could do things better in the Headquarters in terms of the flexibility in funding our various activities, flexibility in terms of how we use the staff in the Headquarters. Better coherence between the military and the civilian sides. Internal reform. But hopefully something that will be signed up to by the allies.
Finally, let me not forget the last, but very politically significant point all the allies will welcome, and I think warmly welcome, that France is taking its full place in NATO in the integrated military structure. This is a very powerful political signal that the allies stand together, and completely together, within this Alliance. And we believe in NATO that it will also help to strengthen the European Union and the European Union's security and defence identity, which is something that the Alliance supports very strongly.
That's it. Happy to take your questions. Yes, please. Front to back.
Q: A very practical question. You said that it's going to be in alphabetical order. Which alphabet? And remember French is second official language, France is co-host and French seating was used in Prague if I'm not mistaken when Kuchma arrived.
APPATHURAI: Yes. I...
Q: So I want to ask where will sit Obama? Because basically (inaudible...).
APPATHURAI: I asked the question because it's taking place in France, which alphabet would be used? My understanding is that the English alphabet will be used. With, of course, full agreement by the French government.
Q: James, on a related issue, I wondered if you had time to look at the Obama-Medvedev statement that came out of London today. It talks about nuclear arms control and its reduction, it talks about cooperation on missile defence, Afghanistan and Pakistan and also the NRC. Do you have any reaction today?
APPATHURAI: I haven't seen the statement, to be very honest, so I can't comment too much on it. What I can say is two things. One is obviously NATO-Russia relations are heavily influenced by bilateral relations between the United States and Russia. That is a political reality. And to the extent that relations between those two countries improve, that there is practical cooperation on a number of issues which have resonance inside NATO, I think that that's something that can only be welcomed by NATO and that can benefit NATO.
NATO as an Alliance also has always had a strong focus on arms control and a strong interest in arms control and has, as you know, as a body negotiated or been party to arms control agreements. So here again, while this is a bilateral agreement between the two countries I can only assume that the allies welcome progress in this regard as well.
Just go back. Please go ahead.
APPATHURAI: With regard to the new Secretary General, if there is one issue on which the Secretary General... the current Secretary General has no role, and in which the International Staff has no role, and that is on the selection of a new Secretary General. So I can honestly say I do not know. There is no deadline for the nomination of a new Secretary General. But I have no idea, and would not be informed of where we are on the process of selecting a new Secretary General.
Q: James, in the framework of a discussion concerning the NATO-Russia relations will there arise some questions about the continuing policy of enlargement, which NATO is... or which Russia is strongly opposed to? Thanks.
APPATHURAI: The enlargement principle in NATO remains as firmly supported by the allies as it ever did. And there should be no doubt about that. The manifestation of that, by the way, is the fact that two countries will be joining today, this Alliance. And others, I know, are either formally in line to join or are considering joining. I have seen, for example, comments by the Montenegro government that they intend to move towards applying for membership at a certain stage. And this is a principle which allies hold dear.
It is, by the way, also a principle enshrined in our founding documents, so there should be no doubt about the commitment of NATO to this.
With specific reference to Georgia and Ukraine I think we need to understand that in essence nothing has changed. The principle set out at Bucharest that they will be members when they meet the standards has not changed. But it is also true that they are not yet ready in terms of meeting the reforms.
This does not mean that the principles change. It simply means they are not ready in terms of meeting the reforms, and NATO will continue to help them meet those standards.
So I do think we need to be relatively calm on this issue. The principle stands. We are working as an Alliance in supporting their reform efforts and that's where we are.
Q: On Afghanistan, as these things are always very well prepared, do you have any indication that the two missing battalions will be offered during this conference, and if so by whom?
APPATHURAI: First, I thank you for saying that NATO is always very well prepared. It's not really true, but I thank you for saying it. (Laughs).
Yes, that's nice. I can tell you there are active discussions under way, and encouraging discussions under way, in terms of providing the forces for election support. I have to say whether or not this is signed and sealed in two days based on what I have heard I am confident that the allies will provide the forces necessary for the elections. Those... I am confident that those four battalions will be found.
Q: (Inaudible...) Four battalions? (Inaudible...).
APPATHURAI: Yes, four. Four battalions in total.
APPATHURAI: Four battalions in total will be required.
Q: In total with the Americans?
APPATHURAI: No, not counting the Americans. Four on top of what the Americans have provided. Nothing is agreed till everything is agreed, but there has been encouraging progress.
Q: (Inaudible...) official list of candidates, but just I have to ask this one more time, has anyone declared to you his candidacy (inaudible...) NATO.
APPATHURAI: Again, they wouldn't declare it to me.
Q: To NATO. To NATO? As NATO spokesperson.
APPATHURAI: If they were to... yes, but this is the one area... I'm not trying to be legalistic. Yes, I am the spokesperson of NATO, but this is the one area where NATO as a body does not get involved.
So if there were to be formal declarations they would be done between the ambassadors, between the nations, but without the participation of the Secretariat, of the International Staff and I would not be either privy to that discussion, except in hallway conversation, nor would I have the authority to comment on it.
So I want to be very clear here. We keep our distance from this process for reasons which I'm sure you can understand. So sorry.
Q: (Inaudible...) the ambassadors in the NAC (inaudible...).
APPATHURAI: But it's not in the NAC. They don't meet and discuss this in the presence of the Secretary General. We'll go here and then we'll come back.
Q: I'm from Afghanistan Government Media Information Centre. So as you welcome two new countries joining Alliance, so will it affect the security situation and the construction in Afghanistan? This is my first question. And the second one is, so as you say election support forces for Afghanistan, so does it mean that you will send more troops to Afghanistan, or if you're sending more troops will there be teams which will take part in the reconstruction of the country? Thank you.
APPATHURAI: Thank you. In terms of the two new allies joining, these two new allies, I can almost call them that now, are already contributing to the mission in Afghanistan. If they choose to contribute more that would be great, but they're already part of the team, on the ground, with forces, which we welcome and if they choose, like any other allies choose to contribute more we would welcome that even more.
In terms of the troops. The election support forces are designed to go for a limited period to do a specific job. And that is to support the elections. And that is in terms of logistics, in terms of security and not just security... but principally security for the Afghan people, also security potentially for observers. It is up to the Commander ISAF to use the forces, of course, the way in which he needs to, in support of the Afghan lead. This is an Afghan-led process, the elections.
But COMISAF will be working very closely with Minister Wardak and with General Bismullah Khan to find out exactly how best to use them. But this is a limited deployment.
Q: I just wanted to ask three short questions.
APPATHURAI: It works. It just gets broadcasted back. I'll repeat the question.
Q: Okay. I just wanted to ask three very short questions. The first one is that you confirm that the Summit will run 88... 28 chiefs of state and government participating? Okay. Second one France, Foreign Minister and Sarkozy confirm that France will not join the Nuclear Planning Group. So can you confirm French return as complete or full?
Third, when you say four battalions I saw that the Germans, for instance, had already announced one battalion for their own region. Italians a few hundred soldiers also for their own region so what were you asking for four battalions out of which two have already been provided?
APPATHURAI: Formal... sorry, to answer the first question, yes, 28 Heads of State and Government will be participating.
Second question: France has taken the decision to take its full place, prendre toute sa place, in NATO and in NATO structures. It is entirely up to France whether or not it wishes to participate in the Nuclear Planning Group. I have seen the comments by President Sarkozy that instead of.. I think he said instead of 38 committees, now out of 40 now we'll be participating in 39 out of 40, leaving... and the 39th being the Defence Planning Committee, leaving the NPG. They're not participating at present in the NPG. That is France's decision. As far as we are concerned that is France taking its full place in NATO.
The third question, as I say nothing is formal, nothing is confirmed, but we have heard encouraging signs from allies that there will be the necessary forces for election support, but it is not yet a done deal.
Q: James, can you elaborate a little bit on the possible future developments with Russia, and especially whether there is a possibility to negotiate about monitoring equipment passage through Russia for Afghanistan? Thanks.
APPATHURAI: Thank you. On the future relations with Russia, on the political front I think you will soon see a formal meeting of the NATO-Russia Council at ambassadorial level. You will then thereafter relatively soon see a meeting at Foreign Ministers' level. None of this is yet confirmed. Not least because calendars have to be looked at. But I think that's the general desire amongst the allies, and I think also in Moscow.
So the diplomatic route, I think, is relatively clear, if not yet fully confirmed.
On the practical side we already have an offer from Russia which we have accepted for land transit of non-lethal military goods, and the discussions are underway also for air transit. That is on NATO bases. Russia has moved, I think, even faster with individual allies, including the United States and others in both ways and that includes rail transit. I understand a German... or it might have been an American... anyway, one of the allies had a trainload of military supplies that have gone all the way from Poland to Uzbekistan. I think it gets to probably Germany to Termez. And the United States also has had some land transit.
So on a bilateral basis Russia has worked closely with allies on transit.
There are a number of other areas where we could do more. We could do more on theatre missile defence. We could do more together on piracy. We could do more together on combating terrorism. Military to military contacts and cooperation could be brought back to levels that we saw before August and then enhanced. So there's... I think there's quite a lot of scope for improvement, but one of the issues that will be discussed on Friday will be what more we can do. And I think based on the Secretary General's contacts in many areas, my understanding is that the Russian Federation also is very interested in focusing on practicalities. What more can we do in the real sense to deliver real results.
So that's a shared sentiment which I think you will see manifest itself relatively soon.
Q: James, (inaudible...) could you repeat yourself a little bit. We've just a little note on... from Washington on Albania and Croatia being accepted. Could you give us an official reaction to that, please?
APPATHURAI: Well, you're ahead of me. I'm wondering where my usual SMS is.
APPATHURAI: If that's the case, and I presume you're absolutely right, well, I probably got one. This is very welcome news. Albania and Croatia have worked very hard to meet Alliance standards with regard to democracy, with regard to the state of their militaries. They have overcome what was a difficult period in Balkan history, not too long ago, to become contributors to regional stability and to international security, through NATO, already.
Now they will take their full place in this Alliance. They will have their full voice equal to all other allies as NATO takes its decisions. And they will benefit from the collective security the Alliance offers, but they will also bear the responsibilities that collective security requires between allies.
That's it. Thanks.
Q: And just on (inaudible...) statement (inaudible...) to allied member states like Poland (inaudible...). So how much... are we going to select very firm (inaudible) to this principle of (inaudible) security.
And if I can (inaudible) on the Balkans...
Q: Do you think the discussion will allow (inaudible...)?
APPATHURAI: I think everyone was just waiting for accession. Collective defence and...
Q: (Inaudible...) if you think that the question will in a kind of way lay the ground for a decision to reduce...
Q: ...(inaudible...) maybe even Balkans (inaudible...).
Q: And if you think that they will be able to make (inaudible...) surprisingly (inaudible...)...
APPATHURAI: Yes. Thanks.
APPATHURAI: Thank you. On the first question, which is what kind of language will there be on collective defence? It is still being negotiated. Sorry, the overall documents are still being negotiated, but I can tell you you will see clear words with regard to the commitment that allies have to each other. That has never faded, but the language will be clear and strong.
On the Balkans I do not expect a polemic discussion on Kosovo. The Spanish government has been in touch with its allies, with the Secretary General, to share their view on why they took the decision to reduce their forces, but they have committed to the Secretary General to do this in a phased and measured way in close consultation with NATO and with allies.
The Secretary General of course, recognizing the legitimacy of any ally's decision to do what they wish with their forces, has taken good note of that. There may well be a discussion of this in future.
At a certain stage in the coming months there may be military advice on what sort of force size and force posture KFOR should have, but we don't have that advice. And certainly the Secretary General believes that any substantial changes to KFOR in terms of size or structure should be based on military advice within NATO. And that does not yet exist.
APPATHURAI: Yes, okay.
APPATHURAI: Okay, follow-up.
APPATHURAI: It's no secret that while KFOR continues to do its job and while the situation remains stable, there is a rapidly-evolving political situation in Kosovo, including as very soon EULEX assumes full operational capability. UNMIK is changing certainly in size, and what exactly it will be doing.
So there's plenty to discuss about Kosovo and Foreign Ministers, of course, are not just NATO Foreign Ministers in most cases, but they have broader responsibilities. So I think with regard to Kosovo it is a very good idea that not just Defence Ministers, but also Foreign Ministers discuss Kosovo and its evolution.
Q: Yes, I wanted to ask you, the Defence Ministers, are they going to discuss about Kosovo (inaudible...)...
APPATHURAI: No. It is not on the agenda, anyway. Defence Ministers will focus on transformation.
Q: Okay. Why (inaudible...) Defence Ministers are going to discuss about this subject?
APPATHURAI: Well, I think the idea was that you had two sets of Ministers and there are important defence transformation issues which need to be addressed. They have one dinner in which to do it, so having the governments focus on one issue in one forum and the other in the other made sense, and having some experience with Foreign Ministers, getting them to discuss the nuts and bolts of defence transformation might not be the most fruitful suggestion, anyway. They might not appreciate it.
Q: And so about the training of forces you said that the (inaudible...) Secretary General would like to have it... a unique...
APPATHURAI: An overall chapeau, yes.
APPATHURAI: Yes. I don't know how this will manifest itself. So I don't want to comment on that. NATO is not trying to take ownership of EUPOL. That is not the idea. EUPOL has a very important role to play, but a NATO training mission in Afghanistan might well, as this is not yet... we're not yet at the Summit, and I don't know exactly what the configuration will be. But it should bring more coherence to these various efforts. But let us wait and see exactly how it plays out.
Q: James, (inaudible...) the new General Secretary announcement of (inaudible...). But at least we'll obviously not be you announcing this (inaudible...)... 28 (inaudible) states and (inaudible...) stand together and...
APPATHURAI: Well, I... I don't know if I will be the one to announce it. The way it was done last time was there was a simple press release from the NATO Press Service saying Jaap de Hoop Scheffer has been nominated by the NAC, North Atlantic Council, as the next Secretary General. So I presume we will follow the same process formally. Informally I expect that this will leak and you will know before I do.
Q: James, (inaudible...) preparation for (inaudible...)?
APPATHURAI: (Laughs). As I say, there is no deadline for the nomination of the Secretary General. I have no information as to who might be nominated, when they might be nominated, so I'm not making special preparations for any particular day. But of course, it may come. It may come any time. I really can't say any more than that, I'm afraid.
Shall we go to Paul and then up... pass the microphone over there.
Q: James, forgive me, I've been away and so I apologize if my questions are old hat. But yesterday Ambassador Vendrell was somewhat critical of the U.S. focus on Afghanistan, saying it was too heavily oriented towards fighting the Taleban and fighting al-Qaeda and not sufficiently engaged in nation-building.
I just wondered to what extent those sort of concerns are reflected amongst allies.
And secondly, I was a little bit surprised to hear when you said there's no deadline for nominating a new Secretary General. Does that mean Mr. de Hoop Scheffer is prepared to stay on indefinitely if they (inaudible...).
APPATHURAI: (Laughs). Sorry. Let's answer the question. What I have heard from across the Alliance and beyond the Alliance, including, I think, very significantly from the Afghan government and from the Pakistani government, is support for what President Obama announced. If there was one common theme running through the 81 delegations around the table, with very few exceptions, it was general support for what he had announced, and I think that is what we should be looking to.
No, I'm quite sure he doesn't want to do this forever. No, by no deadline I meant... his term is due to expire on the 31st of July. That has not changed. And at a certain stage before then there will have to be a decision, but there has been no mandated date is what I'm trying to say, before then by which the allies have to come to an agreement.
So they are in discussion. I know they're in discussion, but that's all I know.
Q: James, technical issue. On Friday (inaudible...) his conference (inaudible...).
APPATHURAI: Yes. The challenge is that the dinner takes place in Baden-Baden and you will all be in Strasbourg. I will be in Baden-Baden crammed into an interpreter's booth to try to listen to what they're saying, with no real way to get back to you.
So my plan for the moment is to do a briefing at around nine o'clock the next morning. But I have to come all the way to Baden in a motorcade, and then while the Secretary General is climbing over the bridge I have to swim across the river and get to you.
So our planning is... now if something incredibly dramatic happens we'll find a way to brief you. We're setting up a facility whereby if I have to I can VTC to the media centre, using the NATO TV capabilities. But I'd rather not do it, not least because I can't guarantee that I could say anything and you'll all be sitting around in the media centre till 11:00, which is not that interesting for you.
So current planning is 9:00, 9:30, we'll let you know on Saturday morning.
Q: (Inaudible...) in Baden-Baden?
APPATHURAI: Just photo. Just cameras. Nobody's talking to the media up there.
This gentleman was definitely next.
Q: Back to the Secretary General... sorry.
Q: Is there still enough time to make a decision before the start of the Summit or during the Summit?
APPATHURAI: They can arrive at a decision any time. Any time. But I don't know when that would be. I really can't predict. But there is no reason why they couldn't arrive at a decision anytime.
Q: There will be a ceremony for the soldiers involved in operations. Could you give us some statistics about the total amount of different soldiers sent to the Afghanistan field since the beginning of the operations and the casualties eventually?
APPATHURAI: That's a very difficult question to answer, because of course, the NATO role has not been the only role in Afghanistan. I don't know how many coalition forces have been sent to Afghanistan. I honestly don't know how many if you count the rotations. We now have over 61,000 NATO ISAF troops. There are a number of coalition forces. You'll have to find out what the latest number is, because I don't know what that is.
I do know that if you add up the total number of casualties, ISAF and OEF, you come to almost a 1,000 since 2001.
Q: One thousand.
APPATHURAI: Almost one thousand.
Q: And you have to split between ISAF and...
APPATHURAI: The majority are Operation Enduring Freedom. I think we have... well, you know what, I'll get the total number for you, so I don't want to say majority/minority. I don't know anymore. It's almost a 1,000, but I don't know what the balance is.
Q: Deaths or injuries?
APPATHURAI: That's deaths, not injuries. I think you were next, and then you. Put the microphone over there. Thanks.
Q: (Inaudible...)? Why you didn't say it yesterday in front of all the people (inaudible...)?
APPATHURAI: Well, I think, A, it's very well known.
Q: Yeah, it's in the papers...
APPATHURAI: We couldn't have been more clear, let's put it that way. We couldn't be more clear what the bill is.
Q: (Inaudible...) it doesn't necessarily mean (inaudible...) and trust fund is a fund, right? Which you invest in and it... you get interest in, right?
APPATHURAI: I don't know how... I don't know how much that would be, but I can say that we have our budget committees are only now working on the exact modalities of how that would be, so I couldn't answer the question anyway.
Sorry. You are next.
Q: Yes, it's about Iran, about the meeting you had with the Iran ambassador (inaudible...), especially in The Hague. What is the plan(?) now, (inaudible...) scheduling issue? Are you going to discuss when will you sit again around the table (inaudible...)?
APPATHURAI: There's nothing yet scheduled in terms of a second Iran NATO meeting as far as I am aware. But there is an intention to have it. The issues that were discussed between the ambassador, the Iranian ambassador and Assistant Secretary General Erdmann related, of course, entirely to Afghanistan and the Iranians expressed their concerns with regard to refugees and drugs flowing out of Afghanistan.
We have a shard interest with the Iranians and the Afghan government, by the way, in stability inside of Afghanistan. We have had, at a technical level for many years military-to-military contacts between the ISAF military and the Iranian military, simply to ensure that there are no misunderstandings along the border. So that has happened for quite some time.
But now you will see the political discussion continue, but there is nothing scheduled at present.
Q: And (inaudible...) ISAF forces with (inaudible...)?
APPATHURAI: I have seen information on this. There is no NATO role, as far as I am aware, of negotiating with the Russian... with the Iranians on transit, but I do know that some individual allies might be interested in looking at commercial contracts for commercial companies to use Iranian territory for transit, for supplies, of their forces. I am not aware that any such agreement had been concluded.
Q: On Spanish troops and KFOR...
Q: ...in June 1999 when that NATO had the slogan we all enter together, we'll all leave together, this role was respected (inaudible) the American side during both wars, Afghanistan and Iraq. How can now Secretary General respect the decision of a country which was anyway last to enter and now first to leave? At the same time breaking this rule of unity within NATO?
APPATHURAI: The decision of any sovereign government is by definition respected by this Alliance. We... these are democracies, they make perfectly legitimate decisions and we respect them.
Do we always like the way it's done? No, not always. But the Secretary General made his point. That discussion is now closed. He has expressed his view. He has consulted extensively with the Spanish government and they have agreed a way forward, and the Secretary General thanked Minister Chacón for coming to NATO Headquarters, for explaining the Spanish point of view, and as I say, they have arrived at a way forward which, as the Spanish government said, will see the Spanish withdrawal take place in a measured and phased way and in consultation with allies.
And that is where we are.
Q: And Chacón, when she announced the decision she said that the pullout will be complete by the end of the summer. After talking to Secretary General the comments we hear is civility(?), coordination, let's go and see what the military on the ground say, (inaudible...) what was convenient to the Secretary General. I mean, how we dropped out the end of the summer? What was the new calendar of (inaudible) that they gave to NATO?
APPATHURAI: I think what has been said is what we can say on the subject. If you want to get more detail on the Spanish approach you should talk to the Spanish.
Q: Okay. (Inaudible...)...