Updated: 12-Aug-2003 NATO Speeches


11 Aug. 2003


by Lt. General Van Heyst,
Commander of ISAF III
at the International Security Assistance Force
NATO Takeover Ceremony

Moderator: I would like to welcome everyone to the International Security Assistance Force Change of Command ceremony. The sequence of today’s events is available in your programs. Shortly we will play the national anthem of Afghanistan followed by speeches by our distinguished guests and national commanders during which the change of command from Lt. General Van Heyst to Lt. General Gliemeroth will take place. The end of the ceremony will be signified by the playing of the national anthems of Germany and the Netherlands. During all national anthems you are invited to stand and all officers in uniform are requested to salute. After the last national anthem you are requested to take your seats so we can arrange a safe and efficient exit for all the guests from the hall to the reception. Could I ask you now to stand for the playing of the national anthem of Afghanistan.

Playing of national anthem of Afghanistan.

Moderator: Would you please be seated. The commander of ISAF, Lt. General Van Heyst will now deliver his final address.

Lt. General Norbert Van Heyst: Mr. President, your excellencies, distinguished guests. We feel much honored by your attendance at the transfer of command ceremony from ISAF 3 to ISAF 4 and we appreciate your attendance very much. Please allow me as the outgoing commander after a six month tour of duty some concluding personal remarks.

In my speech on February 10 on the same stage, I promised to conduct ISAF 3 in the most active way possible. We have covered all areas of security and security sector reform and we together have succeeded in keeping Kabul as a relatively safe haven in this country. To remind you with one example only, the last rocket launched on Kabul was 30 March. That is more than four months ago and I feel that is one result of our conduct of ISAF 3. I personally interpreted my mission broadly, that means I did not want to limit my mission to purely projecting force. ISAF 3 needed to participate in many programs and projects related to security, including disarmament, ANA, police, border police, Kabul gates, information exchange and more. Although much remains to be done, this broad engagement achieved tangible results. Our price for security growth was high. Since ISAF 3 took command, five soldiers and one local interpreter lost their lifes due to accidents and attacks in theater. 2 soldiers died of natural causes and 62 died in a plane crash while redeploying from the mission. A number of comrades were also severely injured. I want to pay tribute to all of these people, particularly those who paid the highest price for peace and stability in the new Afghanistan. I want to thank you Mr. President, particularly for your personal recognition of our killed soldiers. Your gestures were well received by my ISAF comrades.

From the bottom of my heart I want to state that many of us will leave something of ourselves here in this beautiful country. We will stay closely linked to Afghanistan, long after returning to our home countries. I personally want to thank my Afghan friends for your openness, your kindness and your overwhelming hospitality. A very personal thanks to you Mr. President and your cabinet for your generous support. You have always had time for the commander of ISAF when I asked for an appointment and as a soldier with 40 years of experience this was a unique experience. I fear that upon my return to Germany it will remain unique.

I wish this country continued progress and success on its way to internal peace. I firmly believe that it is well on track due to the Bonn process. I want to remind the international community that this mission is worthy of being supported. Don’t diminish your efforts and capacities here in Afghanistan. Don’t limit your support to just Kabul and its immediate surrounding area. Last but not least, I wish the new ISAF team and my successor Lt. General Gliemeroth all the success in his mission. Mr. President, transfer your confidence from ISAF 3 to ISAF 4 for the benefit of your own country. Mr. President, your excellencies, distinguished guests ISAF 3 reports out.

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