by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the meeting of NATO Defence Ministers with non-NATO ISAF Contributing Nations
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good Morning/ Afternoon,
I would like to begin by welcoming all of you and by paying tribute to the ISAF and Afghan forces who have been killed or injured since our last meeting.
Afghanistan remains our largest operation and our key operational priority. And we are making progress, in particular in the areas of transition, training, and enabling the Afghans to take the lead.
J’ai pu observer les progrès de mes propres yeux il y a quelques jours encore. Je me suis promené à travers le bazar animé de la ville historique de Hérat, qui fait partie des sept zones dans lesquelles les forces de sécurité afghanes prendront les commandes à partir de juillet. Ces provinces et districts représentent 25 pour cent de la population afghane. Il s’agit d’un début très significatif. Et il montre clairement que la transition est sur la bonne voie.
Chaque jour, les forces de sécurité afghanes démontrent qu’elles sont prêtes et aptes à assumer la responsabilité de la sécurité.
Les forces de sécurité afghanes se renforcent de jour en jour. Dotées de 290 000 hommes, elles ont atteint le stade impressionnant de 95% de l’objectif de croissance fixé pour octobre 2011. Voilà qui témoigne des efforts énormes que nous consacrons à la formation de ces forces.
And let’s not forget that there are around 1,400 women in the Afghan Security Forces, which is also an important milestone.
At the same time that transition is taking root, the Taliban are under pressure everywhere. Including their former stronghold in Helmand and Kandahar.
The successful operation against Osama Bin Laden sent a clear message. Extremism has no future. It is time for the Taliban to make a choice: cut links with Al Qaeda and terror networks, renounce violence and respect the democratic Afghan constitution, including its provisions for human rights.
This is the road to reconciliation. Over 1,700 insurgents have already joined the reintegration process. This matters because there is no purely military solution to defeating the insurgency. Security must be reinforced with governance, law and order, and economic development.
Transition is based on conditions, not calendars. But I am confident that we can complete our handover of security to the Afghans by the end of 2014. That does not mean we are heading for the exit. Our commitment to Afghanistan will endure well beyond that, through our long-term partnership.
Finally, I would like to thank General Petraeus, who has shown extraordinary leadership as Commander of ISAF over the past year. General, you have shown firm commitment to our mission in Afghanistan and to our Alliance. You will be missed.
Now, I would like to ask the media to leave the room. Thank you.