Closing press conference

by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen following the meeting of the NATO Ministers of Foreign Affairs with non-NATO ISAF contributing nations held at NATO HQ

  • 23 Apr. 2013 -
  • |
  • Last updated: 24 Apr. 2013 10:43

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen

Good evening.

We have just had a good meeting with all the 50 nations contributing to ISAF and the Afghan Foreign Minister Rassoul and I have just had a very good meeting and very productive talks with President Karzai.

Since the last time we met, the Afghan security forces have continued to grow in strength and capabilities.

Soon, we will see them taking the lead for security across the country, as ISAF shifts from a combat to a support role. This will mark an important milestone on the road to full Afghan security responsibility.

For eleven years, ISAF has carried out its responsibilities in assisting the Afghan authorities in maintaining security and developing new Afghan security forces. We have fulfilled this mission at the request of the Afghan government and under a United Nations mandate.

Much work remains to be done. And many challenges remain. But with this milestone, our goal is within reach.
The range of our commitment to Afghanistan is unprecedented. We have provided resources, and skills, to the Afghan Forces along with time and space so they can grow strong. And thanks to our shared efforts, the transition to Afghan security responsibility is now well advanced.

We will continue to provide support, including in combat if needed, until the end of 2014. After that date, we will not walk away. Our engagement will enter a new and different chapter, with a mission to train, advise and assist the Afghan security forces.  

Today, we agreed on the means to ensure transparency and accountability in our future funding mechanisms of the Afghan security forces.  This is an important pillar of the international community’s wider commitment to sustaining Afghanistan in the years to come.

Our partnership with Afghanistan is based on mutual commitments.  The government of Afghanistan has made clear commitments to hold credible elections; to fight corruption; to uphold human rights; including women’s rights, and to enforce the rule of law. Their continued efforts to meet their commitments will pave the way for our continued support

With the significant support of the international community, Afghanistan has a strong foundation to build a secure future. But of course, it is for Afghans themselves to shape that future.

With that, I am ready to take your questions.

Oana Lungescu (NATO Spokesperson):  We'll start with Afghan TV over there. 

Q:  Thank you, my name is Muki Nedremzev (sp?) from Saba TV Afghanistan. I have one question which has two parts.  The first question:  "We all know that without Pakistan cooperation there will be no end to violence." What can we now do to ensure Pakistan... to ensure Pakistan to co-operate in this regard? And second, we witnessed the oral dispute of you and President Karzai.  I would like to know how do you assess the current relation between NATO and President Karzai?  Thank you.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: First on Pakistan.  I fully agree that we need a positive engagement of Pakistan if we are to ensure long-term peace and stability not only in Afghanistan; but in the region.

We have urged the Pakistani government and the Pakistani military to step up their efforts to fight extremism and terrorist groups in the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan.  It is a problem.  And we have to face that.  It is a problem that terrorists can cross the border; conduct terrorist acts in Afghanistan and then seek sanctuaries, safe havens in Pakistan. 

It's neither in Afghanistan's interest nor in Pakistan's interest obviously.  It's countering all our efforts to improve the security situation.  So we have a common interest in an intensified fight against these cross-border activities. 

In that respect, I think the trilateral cooperation we have established can play an important role.  It is a trilateral cooperation between ISAF, Pakistan and Afghanistan.  This is a good framework for addressing these border issues. 

As far as NATO is concerned, we have had talks with Pakistan on the conclusion of a political framework for engagement between Pakistan and NATO.  Just before Christmas, the Pakistani Foreign Minister visited NATO; addressed the NATO Council; invited me to come to Islamabad to continue talks on this political framework.  I think these are some of the initiatives we could pursue.

And your second question?

Q:  The second question was about you... NATO's relation with President Karzai.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen:  Yes, yes, yes.  I have the very best relations with President Karzai.  We have just had a meeting which took place in the usual friendly atmosphere.  We had a very open and frank discussion.  We focussed on the future.  We focussed on the legal framework for our continued presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014.  It was a resumption of the talks we had in Kabul when I met President Karzai some months... some weeks ago.  We have known each other for quite some years now.  And we always have talks in a very open and very frank atmosphere. 

Also when I have some tough messages to convey to him on behalf of NATO Allies and ISAF Coalition Partners, and vice versa when he has some messages to convey to me, we can always do that in a friendly atmosphere.  And still, there's no doubt what is our position.  I appreciate that very much. 

Oana Lungescu:  Associated Press... behind.

Q:  A follow-up from that last question.  In order to provide the support beyond 2014 you talked about, we need a (inaudible) of forces to meet.  Two questions.  One is... Is it absolutely essential for you that NATO soldiers be... not face corps (?) in Afghanistan?  And how optimistic are you that can be achieved?

Anders Fogh Rasmussen:  I will not go into details on how we can elaborate such status of forces agreement.  We have started talks and for that reason and to ensure a positive outcome on these talks I won't comment on details. 

But of course as you mentioned, we need... we need a legal... a clear legal framework for our continued presence beyond 2014. That goes without saying.  But I'm also confident that based on the talks I had with President Karzai during my visit to Kabul some weeks ago, and based on the talks we just had, I'm confident that we will reach an agreement on the status of forces. 

Oana Lungescu:  Europa Press.

Q:  Thank you, Secretary General, Ana Pisonero from the Spanish news agency, Europa Press.  Going back on the transparency and the ways for the new financing mechanisms for the Afghanistan forces, how confident are you that this will help the whole international community, in particular the Allies to maintain the funding needed for the Afghan forces, especially because not that many Allies have actually made clear commitments to continue the funding? 

And my second question in relation to this, if you can confirm that it will actually be the US that takes charge of the control of this money and channelling the money to make sure that it basically just doesn't end up in the wrong hands?  I don't know if there is a clear date until when the Americans will actually be in control of these mechanisms, thank you.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen:  Yes, but on the latter, as you know, the Americans are in charge of the existing funding mechanism.  And that leads me to the first part of your question. 

The reason why we have not seen that many... but actually we have seen a number of clear pledges when it comes to the financing of the Afghan security forces in the future.  But the reason why some nations may have been a bit reluctant to come forward is that we have not known the exact framework.  And obviously for many nations, it is important to know that the funding mechanism is transparent, that it is accountable. 

I have a background as a long-serving parliamentarian in Denmark.  I can ensure you that parliamentarians want transparency and accountability if they are to provide money for such a purpose.

So I think the fact that we have now clarified this and adapt it... the trust fund to provide future financing of the Afghan security forces.  The fact that that has now been clarified will also pave the way for a broader financial commitment to financing the Afghanistan security forces. 

Let me remind you that the international community as such has pledged to contribute to the financing of the Afghan security forces on several occasions.  This is not only a NATO or ISAF responsibility.  It's a broader responsibility for the whole of the international community.

Oana Lungescu:  We have time for one last question.  Pakistani GEO TV.

Q: Khalid Hameed Farooqi from GEO Television Pakistan.  As NATO forces' departure is approaching in 2014, at the same time, Afghanistan and Pakistan relationship is deteriorating very fast.  And the world of war has continued.  I would like to ask... that as you mentioned sanctuaries in Pakistan of Taliban or terrorists.  But Pakistan has its own case which will be presented tomorrow to Secretary Kerry.  And Pakistan said that in Kunar province, hundreds of Talibans were forced to run away from Sowata (?) operation, taking refuge in Kunar province in Afghanistan, coming back, committing suicide bombing or terrorist activities. It means Pakistan Peshawar during election campaign, and nothing, absolutely nothing has been done by the Afghan government.  Can you comment on that, please?

Anders Fogh Rasmussen:  I can't comment on the concrete case.  But let me say in general that I fully realize that Pakistan has also suffered from terrorist acts.  The Pakistani people is also victim of terrorism.  And that's exactly my point that Pakistan and Afghanistan have a mutual interest in fighting extremism and terrorism and the cross-border activities, it is ... it's really a common interest.  And that's the reason why I urge both parties to seek an agreement that can pave the way for lasting peace and stability in the two countries and in the border region.

And I commend all responsible political leaders that do their best and invest a lot of efforts in finding such solutions.  So we need a positive engagement of Pakistan.  We need a close and positive cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan.  And I hope the talks that will take place here and other initiatives can contribute to that.

Oana Lungescu:  Thank you very much indeed.  I'm afraid this is all we have time for.  Thank you very much for covering this ministerial.