Press briefing

by the NATO Spokesperson and the NATO Senior Civilian Representative in Afghanistan

  • 14 Mar. 2012
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  • Last updated: 15 Mar. 2012 11:38

Oana Lungesu, NATO Spokesperson : Good afternoon – thank you to those here in Brussels, to those who are joining us by video link from Kabul - to Ambassador Simon Gass, and to some of the Kabul-based journalists who you are not able to see on the screen - and, of course, to those who are following us via web stream.

Ambassador Gass is going to be with us for around half an hour, and I’ll give him the floor very shortly and then he’ll be happy to take your questions.

Let me start by mentioning that the North Atlantic Council met yesterday with our ISAF partners to take stock of the situation in Afghanistan, where we’ve seen several tragic incidents with the latest in Kandahar province on Sunday.

As you know, the Secretary General expressed his shock and sadness, he offered his heartfelt condolences and sympathy to the families of those killed and wounded, and to the Afghan people and the Afghan government. He fully supports General Allen's commitment to establish the facts and hold anyone responsible to account. He reaffirmed NATO’s firm commitment to our mission of building a strong and stable Afghanistan, together with our Afghan partners.

That was very much the sense among all 50 ISAF nations yesterday.

This is a challenging road, but we have a roadmap, which we all agreed at the Lisbon summit. We stick to the roadmap, we are making headway, and we are keeping the goal in sight – and that is an Afghanistan where Afghans are fully in charge of security by the end of 2014, and an Afghanistan which never again harbours extremists that can threaten our own security. And of course have an enduring commitment to Afghanistan beyond 2014, and our Chicago summit will make that even clearer.

With that, let me hand over to Ambassador Gass in Kabul, NATO’s Senior Civilian Representative in Afghanistan.

SIMON GASS (NATO's Civilian Representative in Afghanistan): Oana, I want to thank you very much for that introduction. And I'd like really to start off by echoing some of your remarks. The last few weeks have really been difficult ones for ISAF; but also for its Afghan partners as we faced a series of very unfortunate incidents with the accidental burning of the Quran; the murder of two US officers in the Ministry of the Interior; and now most recently and most shockingly the really appalling events which we've seen in Panjwaii in which it appears that a soldier has committed multiple acts of murder on Afghan citizens, including women and children.

And of course, it's natural when we have such events that strong emotions are triggered, not only in Afghanistan; but also in our host countries as well. And I'm not surprised. To have read in the last few days a number of articles by journalists and by commentators and editors asking whether our strategy in relation to Afghanistan is the right one, whether we should be trying to speed up our exit from Afghanistan.

And I'd like to comment on some of those questions. And I think the place to start is of course these events that we witnessed in the last few weeks have been tragic. They have, of course, dented confidence in some places and they've caused a good deal of anger and shock amongst the Afghan people.

But they are the acts of a very, very small number of individuals in the context of a campaign in which I see thousands, indeed hundreds of thousands of Afghans working alongside ISAF troops and in the civilian sector to achieve our shared goals in terms of our Afghanistan strategy.

So although I think that inevitably events of this sort do cause a bit of a knock, I would not agree with those who have been trying to argue that in some way the bonds of trust between Afghans and their ISAF partners have been broken. I don't think that is true.

I think it's also important when we think about ISAF's mission to remember what we need to do between now and the end of 2014. And I see three major tasks which ISAF needs to carry on with. The first of course is to build and to train the Afghan National Security Forces so that they are in a position to take over the responsibility for maintaining Afghanistan security. The second task is to proceed with the process of transition agreed with President Karzai, by which we gradually hand over that security responsibility to the Afghan security forces. And the third in the meantime is to work with the Afghans to ensure that the insurgents are repelled and are not able to pose a threat to the government of Afghanistan.

And if we achieve those goals, then I believe that we are able to build the security platform on which the Afghans themselves will be able to construct their own future. And that means delivering the stability for Afghanistan which would ensure that Afghan territory does not again become a sort of benign environment for international terrorism and therefore the risk to our own countries.

We're seeing some real results in all of these areas. And these aren't just matters of opinion. You know, there is a good deal of evidence showing the effect which our strategy is having in Afghanistan. If we look at attacks by insurgents in 2011, they fell significantly compared with 2010. They are still of course a serious problem. The insurgency is still resilient and capable. But despite forecasts of increases in enemy attacks last year we actually say a reduction.

Secondly, the process of security transition is on track. And we're seeing some very encouraging results, particularly in relation to the earliest areas which we put into the process of transitioning security responsibility to the Afghan authorities. And the chairman of the Transition Coordination Commission told me recently that when he had first gone down to places like Herat and Methalam and explain what transition would be he had been accused of deserting the people of those areas; because they felt that their security would be severely undermined. Yet when he went back to many of those places he found the same people thanking him for transition because people had a renewed confidence in the capability of the Afghan Security Forces.

Now, that picture will not be uniform in every place. There will certainly be setbacks along the way. But the process of transferring security responsibility is moving ahead at a good pace.

The third point is that the training and fielding of the Afghan Security Forces is also moving ahead and delivering results in terms of the increased confidence and capability of the army and the police force.

They certainly still have weaknesses in areas like logistics and intelligence. But we still have a period of time ahead of us to continue that training process. And I'm genuinely encouraged by what I see as I travel around the country of the confidence that those forces have.

In January, 39% of all operations in Afghanistan were actually led by the Afghan Security Forces themselves. And we're seeing regained level of operations in several parts of the country which have been planned and executed by the Afghans; often with some help from us. But increasingly relying on their own resources.

And that's why it will possible, through our mission between now and the end of 2014, to move gradually but increasingly away from leading combat missions and more towards training and support for the Afghan Security Forces. That does not mean that ISAF troops will not be involved in combat. They will be where that is needed. But there will be an evolution which leads us more towards the Afghan Security Forces taking the lead.

At the same time, as we do this, we will be creating the space and the time in which non-security progress can also be made. For example, we support the efforts of the government of Afghanistan to explore the possibility of a political process which could lead to the end of the insurgency.

Now, I would emphasize that this is still very tentative and it is unlikely in my opinion to lead to a very early breakthrough. But it is promising that at least we have several strands of activity which are exploring the possibility for more serious talks with the insurgents.

Secondly, we have the field of governance and development. As you may know Japan will be hosting a conference in Tokyo in July which aims at making more specific commitments to support Afghanistan through development assistance. But it will also have to involve greater clarity on what Afghanistan itself will do to make the sort of investment which many of our countries are prepared to make worthwhile and effective. So I expect to see some progress there.

Lastly, of course, we will also be seeing developments in the longer term security framework in which Afghanistan will be living off after 2014. And we will see some of these issues of course at the Chicago-NATO Summit in May where we will be discussing issues like the ongoing funding of the Afghan National Security Forces.

We will be talking about NATO's support for the Security Forces beyond 2014 in areas like training. And I hope that by the time we get to Chicago we will also have seen the signature of a strategic partnership between the United States and Afghanistan.

That is not a negotiation of course which I'm directly involved in. And there are still challenges ahead in achieving it. But I think there is a sense of optimism in Kabul that could now be achievable. The bottom-line is that we have a strategy which was set at the Lisbon Summit in November 2010. And that strategy remains valid.

And when I talked to ministers and senior officials from countries that are involved in the ISAF Alliance, I'm repeatedly struck by the degree of solidarity there is behind that strategy. It's the best way of achieving an Afghanistan which by end of 2014 will still face big challenges but which will be able to stand as a viable state and build for the future, albeit with a long term partnership with NATO and many of our countries. So I will finish my remarks there. And I'll be glad, of course, to take any questions or listen to any comments.

OANA LUNGESCU: Thank you very much, Ambassador. We've got until 14:30. So I'll be very grateful if you introduce yourselves and say which organization you're coming from so that the Senior Civilian Representative can actually know where the question is coming from. And we'll start with Geo-TV.

Q: Geo-Television Pakistan, Khalid Hameed Farooqi, Ambassador is there any consideration of demand by the Afghan Parliament to bring public trial of the perpetrators who committed crime against 16 Afghan citizens?

SIMON GASS: Well, that is an issue that's been raised by the Afghan Parliament and indeed by a number of Afghan citizens and I quite understand their anger over the deaths of so many of their country men and women in this dreadful incident in Panjwaii. But the crimes will be answered for under US law that is the arrangement which the United States has with Afghanistan in respect to its servicemen. Not only here; but in other countries as well. I'm sure though that the result... the result will be a complete holding to account of anybody responsible for crimes of this sort.


Q: Sebastian Moffat from Reuters. Could you tell us what kind of extra security measures you're going to be taking in to protect NATO troops and to protect other people in Afghanistan as a result of what's happened over the last month or so?

SIMON GASS: Well, what we have done of course is to make sure that we have a strategy for dealing particularly with the possibility of any infiltration that might take place of the Afghan Security Forces, in terms of force protection; but also in terms of issues like cultural awareness of our own forces; so that they build the best possible relationship with their Afghan partners.

We're also agreeing measures with the Afghan Defence Ministry and the Interior Ministry on issues such as screening of recruits. So there are a number of measures which are being taken. I won't go into a great deal of detail. But this is more I would say in respect of the very bad incident we saw of the burning of the Holy Quran; not especially because of the incident in Panjwaii.

OANA LUNGESCU: Just to add to that, Sebastian. You may remember that defence ministers asked NATO to develop a plan at their meeting last month. That plan was approved last night. And the deputy commander of ISAF, Lieutenant-General Bradshaw actually briefed all ISAF Nations yesterday on those details to... the plan concerns reducing the risks of attacks on ISAF by Afghan Security Forces personnel. That plan has been developed by ISAF in close cooperation with their Afghan counterparts. And it's a mix, as the ambassador was saying, of measures concerning vetting, screening; but also training and education.

The plan will strengthen ISAF security measures. It will also revise and improve the vetting and the screening and monitoring of Afghan forces. And a point which is really crucial is to improve the cultural awareness on both sides. So there will be improved cultural awareness training, both for ISAF and for Afghan Security Forces in order to bridge those... that cultural gap which may sometimes tragically lead to violence and sometimes can lead to animosity. So that plan has now been approved. Europa Press.

Q: Thank you, Ambassador, Ana Pisonero, from the Spanish News Agency, Europa Press. Certain analysts have said that after the killing of the 16 civilians, the level of violence and the level of contestation questioning the presence of the foreign troops is actually lower than the incident we have with the Quran. Because you're there on the ground, do you think that this is like this? And is ISAF worried that the public, especially the Afghans, continue to increase pressure against ISAF troops until the end of 2014 when we leave? And the second question, if I may, Secretary of Defence Panetta is today there in Afghanistan. I don't know if you already had the opportunity to talk to him. And also if he was able to reject some reports that US will pull out an extra 20,000 troops after this incident. Thank you so much.

SIMON GASS: Well, on your first point, the burning of the Holy Quran of course was taken as an insult to Islam and to all Muslims. And we all understand the extraordinarily sacred role which the Quran has within Islam.

The murders of the 16 civilians in Panjwaii, tragic and sickening as it was, is of a rather different nature. It still, of course, makes people very angry. And I wouldn't presume to speak for Afghan citizens in their reaction to this event. But I think that whereas the burning of the Quran affected all Muslims, the murder of the people in Panjwaii does have a rather different character to it.

In relation to troop drawdowns, I'm certainly not aware of any new proposal for drawing down troops. President Obama announced last year that there would the removal of 33,000 US troops by October. That is still moving ahead. But there is no new proposal that I'm aware of for any troop reduction and nor do I expect there to be one. As I said earlier, I sensed a very great solidarity behind the strategy which we have in ISAF for our campaign in Afghanistan. And I'm sure that we will stick to that task.

That does not mean between now and 2014 there will be no more troop drawdowns. That may very well be. Indeed, it would be extraordinary if we ended up at the end of 2014 with the same level of troops as we might have let us say in the middle of 2012. But I don't believe that any decisions have been taken of that sort.


Q: Two questions. First of all, how do you think this latest spate of incidents will affect public opinion in NATO countries? Support for the war has been dropping constantly for the last several years. And what do you think these incidents will... how will they affect it? And Oana, just one for you. Foreign Minister Lavrov announced today that NATO will be allowed to use an air base at Ulyanovsk to ferry supplies to Afghanistan. Can you say something about that?

SIMON GASS: Well, on your question about public opinion in NATO countries, of course, one can read perfectly easily from the opinion polls that people are tired of our engagement in Afghanistan. Just as the Afghan people themselves are also tired of years of conflict in their country.

The key point is this that we have a plan which I believe will deliver by the end of 2014 sufficient stability for the Afghan Security Forces to control their own future and their own security. Now, I think we understand that if we were to rush that process. If we were to take sudden decisions based on the events of the last few weeks, we would place that outcome in jeopardy. Because we need to hand over security when the Afghan Security Forces are capable of maintaining the security.

If we hand over too early, we would risk them facing substantial setbacks which would undermine confidence in this country. If that were to happen, the consequences for Afghanistan would be very severe. But so too would be the consequences from many of our countries. Because it is not only that Afghanistan, if it fell back into chaos, could be a warm environment for international terrorism. That is one element. But it is not the only element.

Afghanistan is also the source of narcotics which would become probably an even greater flow if this country were in a chaotic state. We would certainly see more migration away from Afghanistan heading our countries. And we would also have a source of tremendous instability in what is now probably the most sensitive region of the world.

So I think that there are many reasons why we need to explain to our publics and continue to explain to our publics why we need to remain in Afghanistan for a limited further period. I believe that is an investment which will repay itself in the future.

OANA LUNGESCU: Slobo on transit. My understanding is that Ulyanovsk is an agreement between Russia and the United States. But I stand corrected. I have to look at the details. Clearly we welcome the cooperation we have with Russia already on transit to and from Afghanistan. We look forward to reinforcing that agreement. Because clearly stability in Afghanistan is in both our interests. NATO and Russia have a joint interest in a stable secure Afghanistan.

And in fact, the very good cooperation we have with Russia on achieving that goal was discussed and the recent conversation between the Secretary General and President elect Vladimir Putin just last week. Frankfurter Allgemeine.

Q: Nikolas Busse for Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. I was wondering in your introduction, Ambassador, you talked about the possibility that... Or you said you would not want to see the strategy change and early withdrawal because of the incidents. What if you ask the question the other way around? All the incidents that we have seen over the past couple days and weeks don't they help the insurgents? Don't they strengthen the Taliban; give them more support among the population; make it even harder to NATO to achieve the goal to withdraw by 2014.

SIMON GASS: Well, of course, instance of this sort don't help our case, that much is true. But equally, it's very clear from polling evidence. If you look at the very substantial poll done for example by the Asia Foundation, you will see that the number of people in Afghanistan who have any sympathy at all for the Taliban has been falling year on year. So we shouldn't interpret the understandable anger of Afghan people when they see their countrymen being murdered as in any way consistent with greater support for the Taliban. So I don't think that is the case.

And it's also true that the insurgency has very many problems of its own. Whilst looking at our own difficulties, we should never forget to estimate the picture as it's seen by the leadership of the insurgency.

You know, last year, they announced their al-Bahra campaign that was going to retake control of parts of Afghanistan that had been lost to Afghan and Coalition Forces. They said they were going to disrupt the Loya Jirga through attacks on its security. There has been clear evidence that they wanted to conduct more attacks in big cities like Kabul. But fundamentally they failed. Their campaign was not a success. They did not achieve the breakthroughs that they were looking for. And they, too, faced difficulty.

It's also the case, of course, that as we begin to talk about the possibilities of investigating negotiations for a political solution. This too causes concern amongst the insurgency. So I don't think that the picture from the other side of the border, from the Taliban leadership in the safe havens, is a particularly rosy picture either.

OANA LUNGESCU: Second row.

Q: Benjamin Dierks of the Financial Times Deutschland. Ambassador, can you share a few of the things you do to raise cultural awareness? And would it be correct to assume that what's been done so far hasn't been enough. I mean, I'm sure you have to tell people more than not to burn holy books.

SIMON GASS: Look, there is quite a large program of training troops and cultural awareness. And indeed, the commander of ISAF instructed that all troops be retrained on issues like the handling of holy materials in Afghanistan to follow up the very sad incident of Bagram in which religious materials were mishandled. The reality is that you need to keep repeating these messages. Because, of course, our soldiers generally they want to behave respectfully to their Afghan hosts. But they very often don't come from backgrounds which had any contact at all with the sort of culture which we have in Afghanistan. So we continue to train our troops in some of the key points of cultural sensitivity. And that again, as Oana said, is part of the strategy which we have for preventing counter-insurgency and for building strong partnerships with the Afghan Security Forces. But we have to keep on repeating that message as often as we can. And it's very much on the minds of the military commanders here.

OANA LUNGESCU: APS, a follow-up...

Q: Some of the criticisms that I've seen refers to the fact that the problem here that you have is that this war is simply lasting too long. And that the people of Afghanistan are becoming tired of the conflict as you said simply because it's taking so long. So some of the critics that I've seen have suggested that this process of transition be speeded up in order to defuse that specific problem.

SIMON GASS: Well, of course, speeding up a transition doesn't necessarily stop unfortunately the conflict which Afghan citizens have had to live with for so many years. What transition does is it places the security responsibility in the hands of the Afghan Security Forces. Nobody here is saying that once transition is complete that, of itself, will result in peace descending on Afghanistan. I wish it were. If that were the case, then I think that I might agree with you about speeding up transition. But that is not the case. What we are doing is we are putting the Afghan Army and the Afghan Police in a position through training, through equipment, through mentoring and devising in a position where they will be able to prevent the insurgency from posing a threat to the government of Afghanistan.

We need to do so at a pace which allows them to grow in confidence. If we push this too fast, we risk then facing reversals; because either they're not properly equipped; or they don't have sufficient experience of dealing with particular security situations.

And any loss of confidence which came from that reversal would be very hard to recover from. So I'm really quite sure... This is very much reflected in my discussions with the ministers responsible for security in Afghanistan that we need to follow a pace which is sustainable and which results in the Afghan Security Forces building up the confidence and competence which they need to face the security threat. For those reasons, I do not think that speeding up the transition process would be of help.

OANA LUNGESCU: One last question. Agence France Presse.

Q: Laurent Thomet, with Agence France Presse. The United States is proposing an Afghan army size of around 230,000 troops which is lower than the target for this year of 350,000. Will that be enough in 2014 for Afghanistan to... the government to remain in power against the Taliban?

SIMON GASS: Well, let me say a number of things about... about that. Because I think this is rather misunderstood in some ways. Firstly, this is not a target for 2014. We have not agreed on the year in which a model Afghan Security Force of about 230,000 would come into effect. I'm pretty confident that it would not be for some considerable length of time after 2014. That is my first point.

My second point is that the figure of 230,000 is a model of what could be achieved within the sort of funding level which we would be asking the international community to support. You know it's very difficult so far in advance to say exactly what sort of force Afghanistan should have in the years... years ahead. It's not only the size of the force, but also the equipment level, the balance between police and army.

What is being said is that the model on the table which shows a force of about 228.5 thousand is a proof of concept. It shows that a force which would be adequate to protect Afghanistan could be fielded for that sum of money. But it may be the cases as we move forward that one discovers that actually for that sum of money, with different mixes, which would result in more troops than 230,000; or different balance as I say between the police and the army; or different level of equipment, which would raise different possibilities.

So in my view what is being described here is a model of what could be achieved. The decision which ISAF partners and the international community would need to make in consultation with our Afghan partners is whether this is a plausible funding level. We will then need to raise the commitments that countries will be prepared to support: a cost of around 4.1 billion. But that is not a final decision which has yet been taken.

OANA LUNGESCU: Thank you very much, indeed. Ambassador Gass in Kabul. And that's all we have time from now. But we'll clearly try to do that again. Thank you very much for taking the time to be with us today. And we'll carry on in Brussels. We'll let Ambassador Gass speak to journalists who I know are in Kabul and waiting to speak to him there because they were not able to ask questions because of the nature of our technical link today. And I will update you on other issues on NATO's agenda.

Oana Lungesu, NATO Spokesperson : You may know that the Deputy Commander of ISAF, Lieutenant General Bradshaw, briefed all ISAF nations yesterday on NATO’s plan to reduce the risk of attacks on ISAF by Afghan security force personnel. You will remember that Defence Ministers asked NATO to develop this plan at their meeting last month.

The plan was developed by the Commander of ISAF in close cooperation with his Afghan counterparts, and NATO has now endorsed it. Its aim is to improve Afghan accountability and the safety of our forces, to enhance cooperation and trust-building so that the close relationship which exists between international and Afghan forces can remain strong. The plan will strengthen ISAF security measures, revise and improve vetting, screening and monitoring of Afghan forces and, a point which is really crucial on both sides, is that it will increase cultural awareness training for both ISAF and Afghan security forces -- to bridge the cultural gap which, as we have seen, can sometimes, tragically, lead to violence and to animosities; so that plan has now been approved.

I think that is the last question. Ambassador, thanks once again for taking the time to join us.

Now, let me update you on other issues on NATO’s agenda.

Unfortunately, as you know, today is a very sad day for Belgium. Earlier today, the Secretary General sent a letter to the Belgian Prime Minister, Elio Di Rupo, to express his condolences on the terrible coach accident which happened in Switzerland overnight. I’ll read you what the letter says in French.

« C’est avec une profonde tristesse que j’ai appris la nouvelle du tragique accident d’un autocar belge survenu en Suisse la nuit derniere. Je souhaite vous exprimer toutes mes sinceres condoleances et vous prie de transmettre toute ma sympathie aux familles des victimes de l’accident ».

As you know, the Secretary General called Prime Minister Putin last week. He congratulated him on his return to office and he made clear that he looks forward to continued engagement and constructive dialogue. They also agreed to meet bilaterally in the not-too-distant future. It was a positive conversation. They both made clear that they are determined to work towards a truly strategic partnership, just as was agreed at the Lisbon NATO-Russia summit.

The Secretary General was in Copenhagen earlier this week. He addressed the chairpersons of the Foreign Affairs Committees of the European Union member’s states parliaments at a conference there. He called for greater cooperation between the EU and NATO to avoid duplication of efforts and to achieve a more effective use of resources in these times of economic austerity.  As usual, you should be able to find the full speech on the NATO website.

Closer NATO-EU cooperation will also be a theme for the Secretary General’s meeting with the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton on Thursday. This is part of regular consultations on issues of mutual concern. I expect they’ll talk about the priorities for the upcoming NATO summit in Chicago, current operations in areas where both NATO and the EU are active -- in Afghanistan, off the coast of Somalia, and in Kosovo.

On the Western Balkans, I got questions on Bosnia and Herzegovina yesterday – and this is what I said.

"NATO welcomes the agreement reached by the political leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina on immovable defence property. This is an important step. And we strongly encourage the country’s leaders to implement this political decision, so that Bosnia and Herzegovina fulfils the conditions laid out by NATO Foreign Ministers back in April 2010 in Tallinn, and can make full use of the Membership Action Plan.

NATO remains committed to assisting Bosnia and Herzegovina in its Euro-Atlantic aspirations. "

Finally, a few dates for your diary.

Next Wednesday, on March 21, the Prime Minister of Montenegro will meet the North Atlantic Council. He’ll also have a bilateral meeting with the Secretary General, and a joint press point at 15h00.

Next Friday, on March 23, the Secretary General will give a keynote speech at the German Marshall Fund’s Brussels Forum at 16h30. And his next monthly press conference will take place on April 2 at the Residence Palace.

And finally, you'll have seen that our media advisory for Chicago is out at last. It came out last night. It provides key information about accreditation, visas, hotels and contacts for the Chicago Summit in May. And it’s only the first of several, so we’ll keep you posted.

Ten-fifteen minutes for any extra questions you might have. Let me know if you have any. Ana.

Q: (Inaudible)

OANA LUNGESCU: Just a second.

Q: Thanks. I just wanted to know if you can give us any more details on this... well, for the anti-infiltration plan. And I would be really interested to know, especially, if on the screening and vetting and possible following of some kind of... not supervision for the recruits... the new recruits; if it's just going to be the Afghan Forces doing this or the Afghan authorities or if NATO-ISAF troops would also be able to give some kind of help...? Yes, they will participate in this oversight process, like really following them, maybe they'd decide following certain suspects; or do you see any loss of behavior, checking with the mobiles as well who they contact, who they don't contact. Things like that. Now, would it just be Afghans or would ISAF also participate. Thank you.

OANA LUNGESCU: Obviously, we can't go into too many details for operational security reasons. What I can tell you is that, as I said earlier, this is a mixture of measures. It concerns strengthening, vetting, screening procedures, additional training and educational. There will be counter-infiltration stuff which will be embedded... Excuse me... with the Afghan National Army; also in training schools.

They should be able to detect individuals who are behaving suspiciously or who've developed any psychological problems. There would also be greater screening of families returning from Pakistan and from other neighboring countries. And the number of Afghan counter-intelligence officers will be significantly increased.

There's also an increased focus on good leadership; on ensuring that soldiers and police get proper leave, also that they are paid on time. That their weapons are accounted for properly. And that there are random drop tests carried out. And as I said cultural awareness training will be increasingly important. (COUGHING)

Q: Sorry, just a quick follow-up if I may. The extra counter-infiltration staff, that's also from ISAF partners, from our countries?

OANA LUNGESCU: I can go beyond what I've already said. But some of the measures in the action plan are already in use by ISAF and by the Afghan National Security Forces, thank you. And this will be clearly a living document which will be updated according to the situation on the ground. But I think it's really important to look at the bigger picture and the context of this. Because this is a type of attack that only concerns a tiny proportion of our forces and a tiny proportion of Afghan forces.

Clearly, any such attack is of serious concern. It's vital that we do everything we can to reduce the risk. But remember if you just look at what's being happening in the last few weeks you will see thousands and thousands of Afghan Security Forces risking their lives, sometimes even sacrificing their lives in protection of ISAF forces. And every day, ISAF troops are working, sometimes fighting together with their Afghan colleagues. And that shows that there is a lot of trust. And that trust is still there. (Inaudible)

Q: Morgan Freeman, the natural supply lines from Pakistan into Afghanistan have been halted completely. And what sort... what sort of effect it has on NATO Forces in Afghanistan? Are there any negotiations going on and what is the stage of negotiations? Pakistanis are willing to restore the supply line. Foreign ministers repeatedly saying that it would be soon... open the supply line. But there is waiting... they're waiting for Parliamentary decision. So can you share some light on that particular aspect of war?

OANA LUNGESCU: But we have a variety of supply lines. And my understanding is that ISAF has had enough stockpiles to deal with the situation. But clearly, it's important to resume transit as soon as possible and we trust that decision that Pakistan will be in a position to take that decision because after all it is also in Pakistan's interest that Afghanistan is stable. So that is a joint interest that we share with Pakistan. And it's really important that we work even more closely together; not less closely... Thank you very much.