Monthly press briefing

by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen

  • 03 Nov. 2011
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  • Last updated: 03 Nov. 2011 19:26

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen briefing the press on the outcome of the operation in Libya at his monthly press briefing at the Residence Palace in Brussels on Thursday 3 November 2011.

Oana Lungescu (NATO Spokesperson): Good morning. Thank you very much for coming to our monthly press conference with the Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who will start with a short opening statement, and then we'll be happy to take your questions. Secretary General.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen (Secretary General of NATO): Good morning. This week I had the privilege to visit Tripoli, the capital of free Libya. It was the first time ever that a NATO Secretary General set foot in the country and something none of us could have imagined only a year ago. But in the last nine months a new Libya has been born. Without the courage, the determination and the sacrifice of the Libyan people it would not have been possible. They fought for their freedom and they won.

NATO played a vital role in protecting civilians and I'm proud of what we have achieved. We called our operation Unified Protector, and that is what we did: we unified the international military response in support of an historic United Nations resolution, and we protected the people of Libya.

We did the right thing, in the right way, and we achieved the right result. I saw that with my own eyes in Tripoli. Despite nine months of conflict, I saw a lively market, busy streets, the police on duty, children making victory signs and the graffiti of free Libya on the walls.

It is young Libyans—men and women—who hold the future in their hands. And I was extremely happy to meet representatives of many youth groups in Tripoli.

A young man called Ibrahim told me: "We are one people, we are Libyans. Qadhafi tried to exploit divisions among the people, but we are united."

A young woman called Mirvat told me that Libya was on a new road to democracy, and that she wants to see women playing a strong role in it.

And many Libyans thanked me for what NATO has done. That includes Chairman Jalil, who told me, "NATO is in the heart of the Libyan people."

NATO's mission is over. And the new Libya has been born. But the harder task remains for Libya's new leaders' to shape their society into a true democracy. Because they have won their freedom. But freedom comes with responsibilities.

And the National Transitional Council has an immense responsibility; to the Libyan people, and to history.

As the United Nations Security Council made clear this week, the new Libya must be based on respect for human rights, the rule of law, justice and reconciliation. It must represent all Libyans, including women, and including minorities.

And it must play a responsible role in the region. That includes preventing the spread of arms through North Africa. As the Security Council stressed, the National Transitional Council must do whatever it takes to bring the situation under control. And neighbouring states must take action too. I discussed this issue with Chairman Jalil, and he is fully aware of his responsibilities.

These are not easy challenges. But Libya is not alone. They can, if they wish, ask the international community, including individual Allies and nations, for support.

NATO is also ready to help with the reform of the defence and security sectors, if so requested.

But despite all the challenges, this is a time of optimism. Because the Libyan people hold their country in their own hands. They have the chance to make the future better than the past. And, as I saw in Tripoli this week, that is what they are determined to do.

Now, let me turn to Afghanistan. Despite the violence of last weekend, we are moving in the right direction.

Spectacular attacks capture the headlines. But they don't capture more ground. They do not allow the enemies of Afghanistan to seize and hold ground. And the bigger picture is different. Overall enemy attacks are decreasing and the enemy has been weakened. Enemy attacks were down 26 percent from July to September this year, compared to the same period last year. In Helmand, attacks have decreased by 30 percent; in some districts by 80 percent.

And since the last time I spoke to you, we have passed a new milestone in our training of the Afghan security forces. Our target for this October was to have 306,000 Afghan soldiers and police trained, and we did it.

Transition is on track. President Karzai will soon announce the next group of provinces and districts to be handed over to Afghan security lead. A quarter of the Afghan population already has day-to-day security provided by Afghan forces. And I expect the next group to be equally significant.

Actually, there are many success stories in Afghanistan: The economy is 11 times bigger than it was under the Taliban. There are now 18,000 kilometres of paved roads which gives a boost to trade and the economy. There are five times more people enrolled in education programs—40 percent of them women. Under the Taliban women were not allowed to get an education. And women play an important role in political life and even in the police and the army.

There is a boom in mobile phones and a vibrant media scene, which also contribute to progress in the country.

Mais, nous savons tous qu'il n'y a pas de solution miracle en Afghanistan. Le pays subit la violence depuis des décennies. C'est pourquoi l'engagement de l'OTAN et de ses partenaires en faveur de l'Afghanistan persistera pendant et après la transition.

Nous n'abandonnerons pas l'Afghanistan. Pour le bien du peuple afghan, dans l'intérêt de la région et aussi pour nos propres populations, nous irons jusqu'au bout de notre mission. Nous allons progressivement réduire notre rôle dans le combat, mais pas notre engagement. L'Afghanistan aura besoin de notre soutien après 2014. Et nous continuerons de lui fournir ce soutien.

And with that, I am ready to take your questions.

Oana Lungescu: Please don't forget to introduce yourself and your organization and remember that the microphones are just next to your seats. Jane's.

Q: Yes, Brooks Tigner, Jane's Defence. Secretary General, what kind of security sector reform tasks would NATO be prepared to do? I'm not asking if you have been asked by the NTC to do anything, I'm asking what would NATO be prepared to do?

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: We would be prepared to offer the same kind of assistance as we have offered to other partners within defence and security sector reforms. That is, overall to help put defence and security agencies under civilian and democratic control. We can also help in organizing a modern defence, modern structures. In more specific terms we can help when it comes to institution-building like the building of a defence ministry, how to organize General Staff of the Armed Forces, just to mention some examples.

NATO has a lot of expertise within defence and security sector reform, and actually a number of our Allies have gone through a similar transition from dictatorship into democracy, so they have a very valuable experience to offer. And I talked with Chairman Jalil and made clear that we are ready to assist Libya within such reform efforts if requested. But we have no received a formal request yet.

Oana Lungescu: Associated Press.

Q: Yes, Secretary General, just a question on the loose weapons in Libya. As you mentioned the Security Council has already considered this and I understand that there's quite a lot of concern throughout Europe and in other countries that some of these weapons have already been smuggled out through Libya to Sub-Saharan Africa and across Egypt, perhaps to Gaza. Can you comment on that, please? Thank you.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: I have no exact information as regards to the possible smuggling of arms, but I would like to remind you that the arms embargo is still in place. We have terminated our Operation Unified Protector, including the enforcement of the arms embargo, but according to the United Nations Security Council Resolutions the arms embargo is still in place and it is a responsibility of individual nations now to enforce the arms embargo, including Libya's neighbours.

And the UN Security Council has also clearly stated that it is a responsibility of the new political authorities in Libya to make sure that all weapons are properly controlled, monitored, secured, and eventually maybe also destroyed, if necessary.

Oana Lungescu: Reuters.

Q: Yes, Secretary General, David Brunnstrom from Reuters. Just to follow up on that, do you have any estimate at all as to the number of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles that are actually missing? There are teams on the ground who have been inspecting sites and we heard from American officials, for instance, that they have taken... looked at sites where storages of these weapons are missing weapons - so there must be some sort of estimate.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: In NATO we don't have such estimates.

Oana Lungescu: Koha Ditore from Kosovo.

Q: Thank you. Secretary General, I have a question on Kosovo. Do you have the latest information what's going on in the north where NATO soldiers found itself that they cannot have freedom of movement for themself, let alone to secure freedom of movement for people or for EULEX. Where is this KFOR determination that you were speaking about a few weeks ago, or is KFOR just waiting for the snow and winter to resolve the situation in the north?

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: The situation in northern Kosovo is calm, but I have also to say still tense, which I strongly regret. It is part of the KFOR mandate to ensure freedom of movement. Our commanders in the field try to find peaceful solutions to the problem and talk with local communities to get their positive engagement in ensuring freedom of movement.

It is also part of our mandate to ensure a safe and secure environment in all of Kosovo, including the north of Kosovo and to that end our commanders try to find negotiated solutions, and I would like to stress that I have full confidence in our commanders' ability to work out such solutions.

But I would also urge the local communities in northern Kosovo to cooperate and find peaceful ways to ensure freedom of movement.

Oana Lungescu: Geo TV, Pakistan.

Q: Khalid Hameed Farooqi, Geo Television Pakistan. Secretary General, the Haqqani Network, there are mixed signals with the Haqqani Network that on the one hand Americans trying to contact them and establish negotiations and the other hand that they are threatening to go into (inaudible) district inside Pakistan to attack their so-called alleged safe havens. What is the real policy that are you engaging Taliban and Afghani Network to negotiate? And Pakistan is complaining on the other hand that for the future strategy beyond 2014 that Western Alliance is not including them enough in future strategy.

Thank you.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: The strategy and our objectives are very clear—to stop Haqqani Network attacks on our soldiers and on the Afghan population. To that end we will keep the Haqqani Network under severe military pressure. And I think the best way to ensure that the insurgents and the terrorist networks realize that they need to go to the negotiation table and find peaceful solutions to the conflict in Afghanistan, the best chance to facilitate such a political process is to keep up a strong military pressure on the Haqqani Network and other enemies of Afghanistan. And that's our strategy.

Oana Lungescu: El País.

Q: Good morning, Secretary General. A question dealing with a different subject. It's about Iran. We have reports and noises and headlines about the intentions of the Israeli Government, even though the United States, even the U.K., of doing something on Iran. Do you have any information on that? And in which conditions would NATO intervene in such a conflict?

Thank you very much.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: First of all, let me stress that NATO has no intention whatsoever to intervene in Iran and NATO is not engaged as an alliance in the Iran question.

We support, of course, the international efforts to pursue political and diplomatic solutions to the Iran problem, and I urge the Iranian leaders to comply with the relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions, and stop the enrichment programme.

Oana Lungescu: I'll go to the left for once, Japanese media, please.

Q: Japanese newspaper, Mainichi. Two questions I have. One question is, do you know what kind of negotiation is going on between the International Criminal Court and Saif al-Islam Qadhafi?

And the second question is, Unified Protector is successful, I think, but there were quite a few so-called collateral damage and victim of friendly fire or civilian casualties because of NATO bombing. For example, around Misrata or Brega. Do you want to investigate it? Thank you very much.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: I have no information about possible negotiations between the ICC and Saif al-Islam or any other individuals.

As regards collateral damage, I have to say that we conducted our operations in Libya in a very careful manner, so we have no confirmed civilian casualties caused by NATO. And furthermore, we have really minimized the amount of collateral damage.

And that's also been part of our strategy, to minimize collateral damage because it makes it, of course, much easier for the new authorities in Libya to rebuild their nation and by that also continue the protection of the civilian population, that the civilian infrastructure has not been severely damaged.

Of course, there are cities in Libya where you will see a lot of damage, but actually that's rather caused by fighting on the ground, between NTC forces and Qadhafi forces, than caused by NATO air strikes.

Our air strikes have been precision strikes. We have targeted legitimate military or hit legitimate military targets and minimized the collateral damage.

And for that reason I don't see any need for further investigation. We have fully implemented the United Nations mandate to the letter.

Oana Lungescu: Defence News at the back.

Q: Secretary General, could you just confirm I've got it right on Libya that on the arms embargo, preventing proliferation of weapons then is just down to the regional countries? And do you... my follow-up question to that is, can you be confident that they're capable of doing that work alone? And thirdly, are there any circumstances in which NATO would help ensure that weapons are not crossing borders?

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: The enforcement of the arms embargo is not just for Libya's neighbours or countries in the region. The arms embargo is still in place according to the United Nations mandate, so it is a responsibility of all members of the United Nations to enforce the arms embargo, including NATO Allies.

As I said, NATO as such has terminated Operation Unified Protector, so it's not for NATO any longer to enforce the arms embargo as an alliance, but it's still the responsibility of individual Allies to implement the United Nations resolution as far as the arms embargo is concerned.

And upon request from the new authorities in Libya, it is, of course, possible for individual nations, including NATO Allies, to assist the new authorities in Libya. That follows from international law that the legitimate government of a country can ask other countries to help enforce, for instance, an arms embargo or control arms smuggling or whatever.

So, I would not exclude the possibility that individual Allies and individual nations in general can help the new authorities in Libya on their request.

Oana Lungescu: Agence Belga. It's in your seat, Gérard. Next to your seat, rather.

Q: Yes, Gérard Gaudin, Agence Belga. J'aurais bien voulu, donc, vous qualifier la campagne aérienne de réussite, mais est-ce qu'il y a des choses qui pourraient aller mieux? A-t'on constaté des lacunes et fautes à remédier d'ici le sommet de Chicago?

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: Comme déjà dit, l'opération en Libye a été un grand succès, mais l'opération a aussi démontré que quelques Alliés manquent des moyens militaires critiques comme des moyens de renseignements, la surveillance et la reconnaissance, et il faut faire des investissements dans ces domaines et développer ces capacités dans les années à venir et c'est la préoccupation dont nous devrons parler au sommet de Chicago.

Oana Lungescu: Georgian media over there.

Q: Thank you so much. NAC is going to visit Georgia in next days. How do you evaluate the steps achieved with this country and what will be the priorities of the future?

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: We look very much forward to visiting Georgia. It is three years ago that the NATO Council last visited Georgia, and during that period of time we have seen significant progress in the relationship between Georgia and NATO, and we have seen significant progress as regards reforms of the Georgian defence and the Georgian society in general.

In particular, I will take this opportunity to express my gratitude for the significant Georgian contribution to our operation in Afghanistan. Georgia belongs to the largest contributors to our operation in Afghanistan and it is a testament to the very strong Georgian commitment to our Alliance.

So the purpose of our visit to Georgia will be to discuss with the political leaders in Georgia how we can make further progress when it comes to reforms, and further progress in the relationship between Georgia and NATO. And we will also get an opportunity to meet a broad range of representatives of the Georgian society.

So it will be a very significant event that stresses the very special partnership between Georgia and NATO.

Oana Lungescu: Polish News Agency.

Q: Hello, the (inaudible) is Agence Europe. One question about Afghanistan. Secretary General, I would like to know what is your definition of the Haqqani Network? If NATO is engaged with them do you consider the Haqqani Network as insurgents, a terrorist group or a criminal organization, for example? Thank you.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: Yes, well, I say all three of that. I mean, basically they are enemies of Afghanistan and we are in Afghanistan to prevent the country from once again becoming a safe haven for terrorists. So, of course, we are fighting the Haqqani Network because the Network constitutes a major threat to our soldiers and to the Afghan people.

So I don't think the definition matters. The bottom line is that they are enemies of Afghanistan and for that reason we will take on the Haqqani Network and stop their attacks on our troops and on the Afghan people.

Oana Lungescu: Al Arabiya.

Q: Secretary General, good morning. The heads of the military militia in Libya are now abandoning their pledge to hand over and to give up their arms to the authorities. They want to play a political role and they want to play the role of the gardiens de la révolution in Libya. I want your comment and once after your visit do you have the impression that the NTC is controlling the whole country, or do you consider that the first speech of Mr. Jalil on Islamic Sharia is more reflecting the wish or the wishes of these military militia leaders? Thank you.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: Well, first of all, let me stress that it is of utmost importance that all the different militias in Libya are put under a common command-and-control, and that is, of course, one of the big challenges for the National Transitional Council to build such unified armed forces in Libya. So you're right, it is a big challenge.

Actually, during my visit to Tripoli I also spoke with freedom fighters who told me that they had already handed over their weapons. They had a strong desire for returning to their civilian life as soon as possible. So I think you will also meet former freedom fighters who now intend to resume their civilian occupation.

Of course, I discussed this issue with Chairman Jalil. I know that he's very much focused on this because it's also of utmost importance that the members of the NTC forces, who have also sacrificed so much to win freedom in Libya, that they are ensured a future of economic and social opportunities. So I know that the NTC is very much focused on that.

As regards to Chairman Jalil's liberation speech, let me stress that it is, of course, now for the Libyan people and the political leaders to shape the future of Libya, including pass the necessary legislation according to Libyan tradition, but I would add to that that the United Nations Security Council has made very clear that the international community expects the new Libya to live up to, and fully respect, the basic democratic principles, including the rule of law, respect for human rights, including women's rights. And I have noted with great satisfaction that the National Transitional Council on several occasions have voiced exactly the same opinion and I do believe that the National Transitional Council, the new authorities in Libya have a sincere desire for developing a true democracy in Libya.

Oana Lungescu: Thank you very much. Have a very good day.