by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen following the North Atlantic Council Meeting in Defence Ministers Session - Opening statement
We have just had a substantial discussion on how to ensure NATO has the right defence capabilities. Despite the financial challenges we face, we must remain strong enough to deal with future security challenges.
We have already made significant progress since our last summit in Lisbon. But still more needs to be done. In Chicago, we will take the next steps, by approving a specific set of commitments and measures, and embracing the new approach we call Smart Defence - all of which will get us to where we need to be in the decade to come.
Today, we also agreed that, in Chicago, we will adopt a series of measures in the fields of education and training, exercises and technology, to make sure that our forces maintain the strong connections they have developed during our operations. We call it the Connected Forces Initative.
Ministers were also clear that the defence package will not be a one-off, or the end of the story. This is not just about NATO 2012. And it’s not just about one summit. It’s about keeping our Alliance fit for the long-term - for 2020 and beyond.
This will take real effort, and real determination. It demands a rigorous pursuit of critical priorities, provided by national or multinational means. And real willingness to consult with Allies on possible changes to our defence programmes and budgets before firm decisions are taken. This is what we mean by a renewed culture of cooperation. Cooperation as a natural first choice, not the last resort.
Key to our future capabilities is missile defence. Only 16 months have passed since we took the historic decision at the Lisbon Summit to develop a capability to protect NATO populations, territory and forces against missile attacks. At Chicago, our ambition is to declare an interim missile defence capability.
And today we made clear that we are all determined to make that happen. This will be a first step for our missile defence sytem, but a truly significant one.
With that, I am ready to answer your questions.
OANA LUNGESCU (NATO Spokesperson): Reuters.
Q: Sebastian Moffett from Reuters. Could you talk a little bit about the threats against which missile defence program is supposed to defend and in particular in the areas planning to test nuclear ballistic missile apparently? And could you say whether this increases the perceived threat from other countries' missiles?
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN (NATO Secretary General): Let me stress that the NATO missile defence system is not directed against any country. It's directed against a threat, a real missile threat. And we do not consider India a threat to NATO Allies or NATO territory.
OANA LUNGESCU: Independent.
Q: Kim Sengupta from the Independent. Can I ask you Secretary General about Afghanistan? Leon Panetta said recently that he wants to see combat operations more or less ceased by middle of 2013. This appears to be significantly earlier than the schedule put down in Lisbon. Can I ask you if this actually still marries with what you and others said would happen time-wise in Lisbon?
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Let me stress that there is no change whatsoever in the timeline. We stick to the roadmap and the timeline that we adopted when we had the last NATO Summit in Lisbon in November 2010. That is we will gradually hand over lead responsibility for the security to the Afghan security forces in a process that will be completed by the end of 2014. We stick to that timetable. There is no change whatsoever in that time table.
But let me also stress that in order to fulfil that timetable, to complete transition by the end of 2014. we will have to hand over the last provinces to lead Afghan responsibility sometime in 2013, probably by mid-2013. So there's no contradiction between mentioning 2013 as... or mid 2013 as the time when we will hand over the last provinces to lead Afghan responsibility and the fact that transition will be completed by the end of 2014. Because it takes 12 to 18 months to actually implement a transition. That's why we will have to hand over the last provinces to lead Afghan responsibility in 2013 so that the transition can be completed by the end of 2014.
Obviously, during that transition process the role of our troops will gradually change from combat to support. But we will continue to conduct combat operations throughout the transition period until the end of 2014. So the bottom-line is there's no change whatsoever in the Lisbon roadmap.
OANA LUNGESCU: Financial Times.
Q: Thank you Mister Secretary General, Peter Spiegel from the Financial Times. President Karzai has requested a firm commitment on post-2014 funding in size of the Afghan National Security Forces. Do you anticipate that coming out of this meeting here or at Chicago, the proposal the US has made is $4.1 billion, a year, size of 230,000 post-2017? Is that likely to be adopted either at this meeting here or in Chicago? Thank you.
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: The meetings today and tomorrow are not pledging conferences. So I would not expect concrete announcements at this meeting. Nor is the Chicago Summit a pledging conference. But I would expect a clear picture of the size, the structure and the cost of a long-term sustainable Afghan Security Force. And that's what we are going to discuss today and tomorrow.
You're right that a figure has been mentioned that a long-term sustainable size of the Afghan Security Forces will be equivalent to a bill of around $US 4 billion a year. And that figure has also been endorsed by the Afghan authorities and the international community in the local relevant parties in Kabul. So that's our planning basis, though no former final decision has been made yet. But it's a good planning basis. Because this figure has been endorsed by Afghans and by the international community.
I would anticipate that NATO Allies and ISAF partners will commit themselves to contribute to financing a fair share of this overall bill. It's a bit premature to present any concrete figures. But I would urge Allies and partners to commit themselves to an overall framework for financing the Afghan Security Forces. And then down the road we will receive the more concrete commitment from individual nations. But I sense that there is a positive attitude towards international financing of the Afghan Security Forces. Because people realize that a bill of that size goes well beyond the financial capacity of the Afghan government.
And it is in the interest of the whole international community to see strong and highly capable Afghan Security Forces take full responsibility for the security by the end of 2014 to give the defence of Afghanistan a strong Afghan face. And by the way, economically, it is less expensive to finance Afghan security forces than to deploy international troops in Afghanistan. So it's a good deal. And it's very easy to make the case that this would be a good way forward.
OANA LUNGESCU: Thank you very much. I'm afraid that's all we have time for now. But we will be back later this afternoon, thank you.