Monthly press conference

by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen

  • 01 Feb. 2010
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  • Last updated: 02 Feb. 2010 15:42

Press Conference by NATO Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen

Thank you for coming. In the current spirit of frugality, we’re providing a two-for-one deal today: my monthly press conference, and the annual New Year’s Press Reception. I’m sure you appreciate this prudent use of resources.

You are all familiar with the conclusions of last week’s conference in London. I don’t want go over them again. But I do want to make one initial point on Afghanistan.

I saw a lot of reports last year that the international community was losing the will to carry out his mission. Or that unity in NATO was fracturing. Or that there was no clear strategy.

After important decisions taken these last couple of months we see a new momentum:

    • In London, almost 70 countries made clear commitments not only to maintain their support for Afghanistan, but in many cases to step it up.
    • Almost 40 out of 44 countries in the ISAF mission have now made offers to send fresh forces to the operation, getting us close to the 40,000 that General McChrystal assesses he needs.
    • We have a clear military strategy: to protect the Afghan population, while stepping up our training of Afghan forces so that we can transition to Afghan lead, when the conditions are right.
    • There is a set of plans, developed by the Afghan Government and endorsed by the international community, to tackle the problems Afghans say affect them the most: weak governance and a weak economy.
    • And there is a fresh team in place to lead the civilian effort in Afghanistan including my own new Senior Civilian Representative, Ambassador Mark Sedwill.

Yes, 2010 will be a decisive year. It will also be challenging, and there will be many bad days. But I am confident that we have the strategy, the resources, and the unity we need to see real momentum this year.

Of course, Afghanistan will be front and centre on the agenda later this week in Istanbul, at the meeting of Defence Ministers, where we will discuss how to take forward our strategy.

There are two main points on Afghanistan which I believe now need attention.

    • Firstly: while our requirements for combat forces have in general been met, we still need more trainers for our training mission. Allies and Partners have made substantial contributions, but it isn’t yet sufficient. We are still short of 21 training teams concerning traiing of the Afghan army, and as far as the Afghan police is concerned, we are still short of more than 100 training teams. And as training is an investment in transition, I will continue to push hard on this.
    • Secondly: London was an important meeting, and set out clear plans. What has to happen now is implementation. Implementation by the Afghan Government, to take forward its ambitious and necessary plans. Implementation by the international community to fund and support those plans – and let me mention in particular supporting the growth of the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police.

Of course, there are other issues on the agenda at our meeting in Istanbul. One of those is transformation, and I see the discussion in Istanbul on transformation as part of the process of developing the new Strategic Concept, of which transformation will be a very important part.

We will focus on resources – and in particular, how to get the most value for hard-pressed defence budgets. One important way to do that by developing multinational capabilities – to buy and run together what is simply more expensive if we do it, and duplicate it, on a national basis.

I’m going to focus Ministers attention on three areas where I think we could do more multinationally:

    • Counter IED (Improvised Explosive Devices) – and SACT, General Abrial, will present some proposals
    • Medical facilities
    • Helicopters

These are all areas where we can make progress, and where we should make progress by pulling resources and pursuing multi-national solutions.

Une dernière question figure à l'ordre du jour de la réunion : le Kosovo. Aucune décision ne devrait être prise, mais les ministres examineront l'état d'avancement du passage à une phase de présence dissuasive.

En résumé, tout se passe bien. L'effectif vient de passer à 10 200 hommes, et sa réduction se déroule donc comme prévu. La situation de sécurité le permet. Nous pouvons maintenant clairement constater que la décision de passer à une phase de présence dissuasive était la bonne.

Voilà, en quelques mots, les points que je souhaitais aborder. Je suis prêt à entendre quelques questions, et nous pourrons ensuite avoir une discussion plus informelle.

Appathurai: I think Ben was first and then we'll go over there. Yes.

Q: Ben Nimmo from the German press agency DPA. Secretary General, on the army trainers and the police trainers, the shortfalls you've given, are those now for the final total of the enlarged ceilings as were agreed in London, the 305,000 total? Or is that for the target for the end of this year? Thank you.

Rasmussen: That's for the current targets. I have not included further requirements according to the new decision taken on the 20th of January to raise the total level of Afghan security forces to 300,000 by 2011. So to reach that target it would require even more training teams to train and educate Afghan soldiers and Afghan police. This is the reason why I will put a lot of focus on this in the coming weeks.

Appathurai: Two questions there: Reuters and AFP.

Q: Secretary General, David Brunnstrom from Reuters. I was wondering if I could ask you about UN Special Representative Kai Eide's talks with members of the Talibans’ Quetta Shura. How significant a development do you consider that to be? And do you see any indication of possibility of follow-up talks or willingness of the Taliban to negotiate further?

Rasmussen: Well, it's very difficult for me to present any assessments concerning the willingness of the Taliban to engage in a reconciliation and reintegration process. I think two points are important to stress.

Firstly, that this process must be led by the Afghan government. We can assist them. We will assist them. But it is for the Afghans to decide how a reconciliation and reintegration process could take place in the most beneficial way.

And my second point is that it is to my mind a prerequisite for such reconciliation and reintegration that those individuals and those groups involved in that process will accept and abide by the Afghan constitution, including abide by the basic principles of democracy, rule of law and human rights.

But provided they accept to stop fighting and instead engage positively in creating peace in the country and they fulfill these criteria, I think they should try.

Appathurai: Pascal?

Q: Monsieur le secrétaire-général, Pascal Mallet, Agence France-Presse. A follow-up to the previous question of my colleague, in French, if you want. Étant donné que ça sera difficile de convertir beaucoup d'Afghans, de Talibans afghans, à ce processus de réconciliation, est-ce que l'OTAN a un plan B, "a plan B", c'est-à-dire qu'en cas d'échec, "the failure", de ces négociations, quel sera l'impact sur l'OTAN et sur sa décision de se retirer progressivement d'Afghanistan?

Rasmussen: Merci beaucoup. Il faut souligner que selon mes connaissances, il n'y a pas encore eu de négociations, ni de succès ou échec. Et il faut se rappeler des raisons pour notre présence en Afghanistan: notre sécurité.

Nous y resterons aussi longtemps que nécessaire pour accomplir notre mission. La transition aura lieu selon les conditions, pas en calendrier.

Mais je pense que c'est dans l'intérêt de tous, y compris les Talibans, de trouver une solution politique qui respecte la constitution afghane et qui leur donne une occupation alternative que de se battre contre nous pour 10 $ par jour.

Appathurai: The next question is there.

Q: Mister Secretary General, Kai Niklasch, German Television. You said: "We will have 30 000 additional American troops now and around 9 000 NATO or non-NATO troops." Will these all be combat troops? Or is it possible that one can change their task, their job to let's say a training mission? Because the Germans, I think, they will send another 500 around, a little bit plus maybe. They will have 5 000 in the future and they said they might take 1 400 to educate soldiers in Afghanistan. So are these other troops all combat troops, or is there any possibility to give some troops in training of army and police?

Rasmussen: It's a good question. The nearly 40 000 troops constitute a mix of combat troops and trainers. So there are trainers among the 40 000. However, we have seen that there are still shortfalls, specific shortfalls concerning our training mission. And this is the reason why we will now discuss with nations how we can possibly configure or reconfigure their contribution so that our training mission can get fully equipped.

But I would not exclude the possibility that we will need additional contributions on the top of what we have already seen. Because this training mission is of utmost importance to accomplish the strategy we all agree on, namely the transition to Afghan lead. And the more we invest in this transition now, the sooner the date when the Afghans can take responsibility themselves.

Appathurai: Next question, c’est là au milieu.

Q: (INAUDIBLE) News Agency from Turkey. Since you are going to Istanbul, are you planning to put forward a request from... to the Turkish side to close this lack of training personnel, since Turkey prefers to contribute with training personnel only, thank you.

Rasmussen: Well, let me stress that the Defence ministers meeting in Istanbul is not a force generation conference as such. But I will put forward a general request to all allies and partners that we, through a joint effort, make sure that our training mission will be fully resourced. So in general terms, I will present such a request and I hope to see a positive respond to that.

Appathurai: Jim.

Q: Jim Neuger from Bloomberg. A question about missile defence. The United States is supplying for Arab Gulf States with Patriots for the purpose of missile defence and has also announced that it is stationing anti-missile ships on permanent patrol in the Persian Gulf with the same goal as the NATO Missile Defence System, namely to edge against an attack by Iran. My question is: Has this been coordinated with NATO? Do you see any possibility of these American deployments being integrated into the future NATO system? And does this represent, in your view, is it a sign that the threat of Iranian missile attack is increasing?

Rasmussen: Well, it is not a NATO mission. But I appreciate that a major ally provides security for important partners. As you know, we have a NATO partnership with the Gulf States. And of course, we're also very much concerned about their security. But I have to stress that this is not a NATO mission but a bilateral arrangement.

Appathurai: Please Denis.

Q: Denis Dubrovin, ITAR-TASS News Agency. Secretary General, two questions on Russia if I may. First of them: we expect the beginning of the work of the common analysis of the threats. So when this work starts and in which format it will be done? And the second question: in February, it will be a visit of the NATO experts working on the new NATO Strategic Concept to Moscow. So could you please brief us on this visit and what's the main task of this visit? Thank you very much.

Rasmussen: Firstly, our work on the Joint Review of the 21st Century: Common Security Challenges has started already. And we have had already the first two meetings in the NATO-Russia Council. And we will continue in the coming weeks. So we have embarked on a quick process. We aim at having a progress report by April. And the final goal is to complete the preparation of this joint review by the end of the year. So it is progressing well.

Second question on the Strategic Concept Group of 12. I can confirm that they will visit Moscow. And I know that they look very much forward to that to discuss with the Russian civic society as well as representatives of the Russian government, different aspects of the strategic concept. We have invited all our partners to contribute to this very transparent process of developing a new strategic concept and we would also very much welcome ideas and inputs from the Russian side, and this is the reason why the group has decided to visit Moscow.

Appathurai: Augustin.

Q: I was (INAUDIBLE) Kosovo. We understand that last week, you had a meeting with Mr. Pieter Feith and General Kermabon, head of EULEX. There is an international strategy for the North of Kosovo. So do you support this strategy and can KFOR help to implement it for the North of Kosovo?

Rasmussen: Yes, well, NATO KFOR is responsible for security in Kosovo. And as I mentioned in my introduction, we have now taken the first step in the direction of reduction of our presence in Kosovo. Further steps may be taken but we have not reached that stage yet. But it has been foreseen that we will gradually reduce our presence in Kosovo if and when the security situation permits. So we will, of course, seeing from a security point of view, support all approaches and strategies that can contribute to ensuring peace and stability in Kosovo, including full integration of all communities in the Kosovo society.

Appathurai: Next question.

Q: Julian Hale, Defence News. You spoke about multinational solutions. Can you give some more information on what you meant by that in terms of IEDs, we’re talking about technology research and development to produce joint technologies? And the second question: you also spoke about helicopters and multinational solutions, what are you doing with...? Are you working with the European Defence Agency as they're already in talks with the United States about future transport helicopter? Is that part of it?

Rasmussen: We have put the IEDs on the agenda because it is of utmost importance that we improve our capability to protect our soldiers against the improvised explosive devices and prevent the use of them. And multilateral... or multinational solutions include a wide range of activities, obviously as you mentioned, research and development but also in practical terms more training of our personnel, development of systems that can actually prevent and protect, more rapid sharing of best practices, etc., etc.

So we will really put this at the top of the agenda because we have seen so many casualties caused by the IEDs. And therefore I look very much forward to that discussion in our meeting in Istanbul.

Helicopters, we have already seen a very positive initiative where a number of Allies and partners have joined efforts in acquiring helicopters and updating, modernizing helicopters and obviously, we can achieve synergies by doing this together.

I would very much like to see an improved and strengthened cooperation with the European Defence Agency of course, this is also one of the possible elements.

Appathurai: Two questions here.

Q: Khalid Farooqi, Geo Television, News Pakistan. Secretary General, are you engaging Saudi Arabia and Pakistan to seek help in order to start negotiations with Taliban? And the second thing General Kayani visited last week NATO Headquarter, you offered him some counterinsurgency training for Pakistani soldiers. Will they be part of sort of ISAF structure in the future, Pakistani soldiers?

Rasmussen: Hum, the latter first, I can confirm we had that a good discussion on how we could further develop practical cooperation including training activities. It will be a process driven by Pakistani demands. It's very much up to the Pakistani military and the Pakistani government to present their ideas as to how we could further develop cooperation. But if it is a request from the Pakistani military and the Pakistani government, NATO is prepared to engage in training activities, and this is the message I conveyed to the Chief of Defence.

Next, we pursue a regional approach to the challenges in Afghanistan. As I said before, specifically concerning the reconciliation and reintegration process, it has to be an Afghan-led process. So we will leave it to the Afghan government to set the agenda; to drive the process forward; and to include neighbours and other actors in this process as they find it appropriate. We will assist them but it has to be an Afghan-led process.

Appathurai: We shall take one here, two there and then we'll move to a more informal setting.

Q: Georgia Public Broadcasting. Mister Secretary General, since your visit in Moscow, do you see any sign of collaboration with Russia on the subject of Georgia? It's not new for you and for us that the ceasefire agreement has not been fulfilled yet by Russia. Thank you.

Rasmussen: Well, we discussed Georgia in a very frank and open atmosphere during my visit to Moscow, and it is well known that we do not agree on this issue. Obviously, I hope to see progress. I have conveyed the message to the Russians that we expect them to live up to their commitments in the August and September agreements from 2008.

All in all, I do believe that an improved relationship between Russia and NATO will also facilitate a positive development in the relationship between Georgia and Russia and between Georgia and NATO.

Appathurai: I think it's the last question now. It's over there.

Q: Nawab Khan from the Kuwait News Agency, KUNA. Mister Secretary General, there has been some discussion on the deployment of AWACS for (inaudible) in the Gulf countries. Could you tell us something about this? Something more?

Rasmussen: Well, I have no news to tell you but I can confirm that we have ongoing talks about that. And I hope to... and expect to see a positive outcome of these talks.

Appathurai: Thank you very much. And now we'll have a more informal discussion. And you may wish to have lunch.