Opening remarks

by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at Informal Meeting of NATO Defence Ministers in Bratislava

  • 23 Oct. 2009
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  • Last updated: 23 Oct. 2009 09:08

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, good morning. Let me first extend a particular welcome to those Ministers who are joining their first NATO meeting. We are using our meetings here in Bratislava to review our presence in Afghanistan and address some key defence transformation-related issues.

La réunion de ce matin portera sur deux questions : l’Afghanistan et la défense antimissile.

La priorité essentielle de l’OTAN demeure l’Afghanistan. L’objectif de notre mission est clair : veiller à ce que l’Afghanistan ne représente plus une menace pour la sécurité de la communauté internationale. Et, bien que cela n’ait pas été sans mal, nous y sommes, jusqu’à présent, parvenus. Aujourd’hui, l’Afghanistan n’offre pas de sanctuaire pour le terrorisme international, et l’on voit de plus en plus les forces de sécurité afghanes prendre en charge la lutte pour la stabilité de leur pays.

Il ne saurait y avoir de doute quant à notre attachement à mener à bien cette mission. Nous resterons aussi longtemps qu’il le faudra pour réussir. Mais, pour réussir, il faut aider l’Afghanistan à devenir suffisamment solide pour résister à l’insurrection car c’est la seule manière pour lui de contrer le terrorisme, qui ne frapperait pas seulement le peuple afghan, mais l’ensemble de nos pays.

Success also means showing the publics in troop-contributing nations that, sooner rather than later, we will start handing over the lead to Afghan forces, with our forces in a supporting role. Because I firmly believe that, if we show them that we are making progress – that there is light at the end of the tunnel – they will support us as long as it takes.

Today – at 28, and then with our ISAF Partners – we will discuss how to take this mission forward. And while it is too soon to get final answers, I hope we will get a clear, shared view on three key questions:

First: Do we believe that the approach set out by General McChrystal in his assessment is generally the right one? Second: Do we believe that we need to accelerate the process of transition to Afghan lead ? And third: How do we best pursue our priorities?

Over lunch today we will continue our discussion on Afghanistan in an expanded format with our non-NATO ISAF partners, along with Afghan Defence Minister Wardak, and United Nations Special Representative Kai Eide.

We will also discuss missile defence. Secretary Gates and his colleagues will address the new US approach. Today’s discussions will kick off a discussion which I hope will lead to a decision, at our next Summit in Lisbon, to bring European missile defence into the Alliance.

Before we continue, let me first give the floor to our host, President Ivan Gasparovic. Mr. President, the floor is yours.