by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the London Conference on Afghanistan in London, UK
Prime Minister Brown,
Secretary General of the United Nations,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is an honour for me to be here with you today and I thank the hosts for organizing this conference. It is important – because security in Afghanistan is important. It is important for Afghans, who have suffered war, terrorism and great deprivation over the past 30 years. It matters to us all, to prevent Afghanistan from becoming, once again, a breeding ground for international terrorism.
That is why, with more than 85,000 troops from 44 nations deployed to Afghanistan – and with over 39,000 additional forces arriving over the coming weeks and months - the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force remains NATO’s top priority.
There is new momentum in Afghanistan, despite the challenges. The recent pledges by now 39 nations to increase their troop levels testifies to our commitment. The increased civilian assistance by many nations and organizations shows clear focus by the international community. And our meeting today demonstrates the broad, solid political consensus to help the Government of Afghanistan move forward.
Our ultimate goal is to hand over lead responsibility for the security to the Afghan Security Forces. And we must be clear on two things: when, and how.
It is too early to say when this process will be complete, but I do know when it will start. It will start this year, 2010.
It is also clear how this transition will take place: based on conditions, not calendars. NATO and our ISAF partners have just agreed on a framework for transition to eventual full Afghan security primacy. We will hand over security responsibility, gradually, in areas of the country where the conditions are right.
We will carefully analyze security conditions on the ground, based on the assessment of the military Commander. The military and the NATO Civilian Representative in Afghanistan will also consult with the Afghan authorities and the UN on non-military factors that are central to successful transition. This will include the effectiveness of provincial governance and the coordination between civilian and military authorities.
The transition to Afghan security leadership will be fully coordinated with Afghan authorities. And the start of the transition process will be subject to political control by the North Atlantic Council along with our ISAF partners.
Let me put it very clearly. Transition is not a code word for exit. The Afghan people should have no fear that we will leave too early. The enemies of Afghanistan should have no hope that we will leave too early. We will not.
But of course, we want transition to take place as quickly as possible. That is what the Afghan people want as well. That is why we support the decision to expand the Afghan Security Forces to over 300,000 by October 2011. And why I am urging all Allies and Partners to contribute even more to the NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan. That is an investment in the future towards which we are all working.
In the end, Afghanistan needs a political solution. ISAF Foreign Ministers approved guidelines last month for our support to Afghan-led reconciliation and reintegration efforts. We will support the Government of Afghanistan as it implements its Peace and Reintegration Programme.
Finally, transition must go hand in hand with enhanced civilian coordination and capacity.
Earlier this week, I announced the appointment of the British Ambassador, Mark Sedwill, as the new NATO Civilian Representative in Kabul. He will take up his new responsibilities immediately. Ambassador Sedwill will work to ensure that our collective assistance is targeted and coordinated.
General McChrystal’s new approach is focused on protecting the population, so it is self-evident that our civilian activities must support that goal as well.
Let me end by addressing our Afghan friends and partners. We have come a long way in the past eight years. We have made a lot of progress. And we will stay with you as long as it takes. The Afghan people deserve peace and prosperity; the international community needs to see Afghanistan become an inhospitable environment for terrorism. We will stand together until we reach our shared goal.