Updated: 12-Aug-2003 NATO Speeches


11 Aug. 2003


by Herr Dr. Peter Struck,
German Minister of Defense

Today, we are transferring the authority over the ISAF III mission to NATO.

This marks the end of the six-month period in which the Netherlands and Germany shared command responsibility for this mission.

It does not, however, mark the end of the mission itself, which is to enable the people of Afghanistan to live in freedom and determine their own future.

Despite all the setbacks, we have achieved a lot.

The general security situation in Kabul has improved substantially; this can be sensed by anyone visiting the city - and this can be sensed notably by the people who live here.

Public life is also flourishing again; this is the foundation for reviving economic activity.

I am particularly pleased to see that lessons are again being given regularly at the schools. Education for boys and girls equally is a must if this country is to have a better future.

Preparations have begun for the first national elections in 2004 and efforts in the realm of “decommissioning, demobilization and reintegration” are taking shape.

Yet there is still a lot to be done.

We are concerned about the activities we can observe of forces both inside and outside Afghanistan that reject the idea of freedom of the individual and are striving to again destabilize the country in order to make it their prey again.

This is the source of the persistent danger which our soldiers face here and to which four of them fell victim.

They died because, as Chancellor Gerhard Schroder put it, they risked their health and their lives to give the country a better and peaceful future.

We mourn for these victims of terrorism; we feel for their families and friends.

Given this, the performance of you, the men and women of the Bundeswehr and the armies of the 29 other nations participating in ISAF III, must be rated even more highly.

Far away from your homes and your families, in unfamiliar climatic conditions, and under persistent threat, you have done your demanding job with bravour.

By means of your assured and invariably friendly conduct and your empathy, you have succeeded in gaining the trust and confidence of the local people and so in helping to stabilize the security situation in the country.

General van Heyst, I express my thanks and appreciation to you and your soldiers for this.

The task ahead now is to continue building democratic structures.

Afghanistan must not lapse back into anarchy and chaos. And Afghanistan must not again become the home of global terror, as was the case under the rule of the Taliban.

We must go on making our contribution towards the formation of government structures until the Afghan authorities are capable of guaranteeing a safe and secure environment by themselves.

And we must see to it that the people of Afghanistan remain convinced that a return to Taliban rule and the return of Al-Quaida are not desirable solutions for their country or for themselves.

What the people of Afghanistan wish for is a stable peace. They are pinning great hopes on the international community.

The enhanced support of NATO for ISAF IV is a visible expression of the fact that the people of Afghanistan will not be let down.

General Gliemeroth, you are today assuming the authority over ISAF IV. You have got a demanding six months ahead of you.

I wish you and your soldiers the best of luck and every success! May you all return home safe and sound!

Thank you very much.

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