Online press conference
by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg following the second day of the meetings of NATO Defence Ministers
On the agenda of our meeting today were our training missions in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Both are key contributions to the fight against international terrorism.
Defence Ministers had a thorough discussion on the situation in Afghanistan.
We are faced with many dilemmas and there are no easy options.
At this stage, we have made no final decision on the future of our presence, but, as the May 1 deadline is approaching, NATO Allies will continue to closely consult and coordinate in the coming weeks.
We remain committed to our Resolute Support mission, with training and funding for the brave Afghan security forces.
NATO strongly supports the peace process, and as part of it, we have significantly reduced the number of our troops.
The peace process is the best chance to end years of suffering and violence.
And bring lasting peace.
It is important for the Afghan people.
For the security of the region.
And for our own security.
But the talks are fragile, and progress is slow.
So it is now imperative to re-energise the peace process.
All sides must seize this historic opportunity for a peaceful settlement.
Without further delay.
The Taliban must negotiate in good faith, reduce the high level of violence and live up to their commitment to stop cooperating with international terrorist groups.
NATO’s goal is to ensure that Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for terrorists that would attack our homelands.
So Allies will continue to assess together the conditions on the ground.
As we do, the protection of our troops remains paramount, and we will take all necessary measures to keep them safe.
Today, we decided to expand NATO’s training mission in Iraq.
To support the Iraqi forces as they fight terrorism and ensure that ISIS does not return.
The size of our mission will increase from 500 personnel to around 4,000.
And training activities will now include more Iraqi security institutions, and areas beyond Baghdad.
Our presence is conditions-based, and increases in troop numbers will be incremental.
Our mission is at the request of the Iraqi government.
It is carried out with full respect for Iraq’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
I spoke with Prime Minister Al—Kadhimi this week and assured him that everything will be done in full consultation with the Iraqi authorities.
We are also closely coordinating with the Global Coalition.
I would like to thank Canada for leading our training mission in Iraq for two very challenging years.
And Denmark, for taking over command at this critical juncture.
And with that, I am ready to take your questions.