Updated: 12-Aug-2003 NATO Speeches


11 Aug. 2003


by Lt. General Godderij
Deputy Chief of the Defense staff of the Netherlands

You Excellency, President Karzai, Ministers of Defense of Afghanistan and Germany, Deputy secretary-general of NATO, Generals, ladies and gentlemen.

It has been six months already since the German-Netherlands Army Corps had the honor of assuming command of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). That change of command marked the start of the first operational mission for the bi-national army corps, which at the time had only just acquired its status as High Readiness Forces Headquarters. A mission during which ISAF suffered several tragic losses as a result of attacks and other incidents. Nonetheless, ISAF has succeeded in increasing the security and stability in the area of responsibility. This is partly thanks to an increase in the number of ISAF patrols and the intensified cooperation with the Afghan military and civil authorities.

We are all very pleased indeed to see that normal everyday life in Kabul is being resumed to an increasing extent. This not only apparent from the ever more hectic traffic in the city, which many of us regard with a certain sense of wonder, but also from the street trade, which is flourishing again. Another example is the repair work at Kabul International Airport, which has now reached an advanced stage. Slowly but surely, Kabul is becoming accessible to the outside world again. The most important indication of the positive turn we have now taken, however, is the support that the ISAF mission receives from the population of Kabul. Thanks to ISAF, the people here have hope for a better future and thanks to your important work, Kabul has become a relatively safe island surrounded by what is still a war-torn country. I would like to compliment the outgoing commander of ISAF, Lieutenant General Van Heyst, and his deputy, Brigadier General Bertholee, on the efforts of the ISAF headquarters over the past period. You and your people have proved that you can indeed be successfully deployed anywhere in the world.

Ladies and Gentlemen, We are here today to witness the ISAF change of command. This change of command also heralds the conclusion of the greater part of the Dutch contribution to ISAF. From the outset of the ISAF mission, the Netherlands took its responsibility and immediately made one infantry company available. Together with the Dutch ISAF staff personnel, 2,250 Dutch military personnel have done their important jobs here in Afghanistan over the past two years, in excellent cooperation with soldiers from many other participating countries.

Early this month, the Netherlands embarked on a new mission, in Iraq. That does not mean, however, that our country no longer feels responsible for the future of Afghanistan. The reconstruction of and security situation in Afghanistan remains an important issue for the Netherlands. That is why the Netherlands will continue to be represented in the new ISAF staff. And that is also why the Netherlands will remain involved in the reconstruction of Afghanistan by providing development funds.

Finally, I would like to express my appreciation for the courage and efforts of all military personnel taking part in the ISAF mission. I wish our AFNORTH colleagues, who will command ISAF over the coming period, every success and I hope that they, together with the Afghan authorities, will be able to make a further contribution to a peaceful and stable future for Afghanistan.

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