by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the Kabul Conference
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Everyone in this room shares one goal: to see Afghanistan stand proudly on its own feet, as a country where terrorism has no safe haven, where fundamental human rights are preserved, where the Afghan people are masters in their own house.
This conference is a very important step in reaching that goal. Last January, in London, the Afghan Government and the international community made mutual commitments across the board -- on security, governance and development. Today, we start turning those commitments into action.
When it comes to security, NATO’s commitment to Afghanistan should be in no doubt whatsoever. The International Security Assistance Force, led by NATO, has grown to 112,000 troops from 46 nations. And it will keep growing in the coming months.
But this is not just a matter of numbers. As we speak here in this room, young men and women from around the world are walking through Afghan streets and fields, with their Afghan partners.
They are protecting Afghan citizens.
They are training Afghan soldiers and police.
They are providing security for reconstruction and development.
And let us never forget how many of them have lost their lives, or taken serious injuries, in our efforts to help this country.
They are doing all this because it is vital to the security of Afghanistan, of this region and of the international community more broadly. This is not a mission of choice – it is a mission of necessity. Which is why we must and will stay as long as it takes to finish our job.
Of course, the size and shape of the ISAF mission will change over time. But let no one misinterpret that for a lack of resolve. Our mission will end when – but only when – the Afghans are able to maintain security on their own.
We all want that day to come as soon as possible. Which is why I welcome the roadmap agreed today on transition to Afghan lead in security.
But transition will be based on conditions, not calendars.
NATO-ISAF will continue to train and partner with Afghan forces, so that they are able to do the job.
Transition will be done gradually -- on the basis of a sober assessment of the political and security situation, so that is it irreversible.
And when it happens, international forces won’t leave; they will simply move into a supporting role.
We have not come this far, at this cost, to falter just as we see our common goal take shape.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I’m very encouraged by today’s conference. Agreeing a roadmap for the future of this country will mean stronger Afghan institutions, better delivery of aid, and a way forward on transition to Afghan lead.
But even as we look forward, I think it is important to restate some fundamentals.
We will never allow the Taliban to overthrow the elected Government by force.
We will never allow Al-Qaida a safe haven in this country again.
We will never support any attempt to sacrifice the fundamental human rights enshrined in the Afghan Constitution, including the rights of women.
And we will stand by the Afghan people for the long term, even after our combat mission ends.
These are principles on which we will not compromise or waver. I hope the Afghan people, and their enemies, hear that message loud and clear.