|Updated: 12-Aug-2003||NATO Speeches|
11 Aug. 2003
Mr. Jean Arnault,
Mr. Jean Arnaut: Mr. President, your excellencies, officers and soldiers from ISAF, distinguished guests, this is certainly a very momentous occasion. A very significant milestone, as for the first time in its short history, the German and Dutch led ISAF is handed over to NATO.
For the Afghan people and those from the international community that have been working for two years in the reconstruction of Afghanistan, it is a very welcome sign that at this delicate, critical juncture of the Bonn process the commitment of the international community for Afghanistan is in no way getting weaker, but getting broader. Let this be for us an opportunity to express our gratitude to the member states that have supported ISAF for the past six months and to the officers and soldiers who have served in this mission and to the German and Dutch governments for their excellent leadership of ISAF 3. ISAF 3 under the steadfast leadership of General Van Heyst has indeed achieved a lot. On the security side we are witnesses to the improvement of the security situation in Kabul since March, as was mentioned earlier by General Van Heyst. We are also witnessing institution building as a new joint security coordination center has been established where Afghans and ISAF are working together to ensure the security of Kabul. ISAF 3 has also provided probably the strongest statement to date in terms of its determination to secure the Kabul environment in the face of adversity. Its unwavering response in the face of the attack on ISAF soldiers in June, killing 4 soldiers and injuring 69, showed ISAF’s strong bond to the people of Kabul.
I join our German colleagues in sympathy for the families of the injured and the dead, sacrificing their lives for a country very far away from their own. And also for the Spanish ISAF contingent who were tragically killed in a plane crash as they made their way back home.
At the end of this remarkable tour of duty we now wish General Van Heyst and his officers and soldiers all the best of success and thank them for their contribution to the peace process in Afghanistan. We would like at the same time to give a warm welcome to the incoming ISAF commander, General Gliemeroth, and also express our deep gratitude to NATO’s member states for agreeing to set up a mission of this nature, well outside of its traditional area of operation. We are heartened by the commitment to stability and security in Afghanistan made by NATO member states. ISAF will undoubtedly benefit from NATO’s strategic command, command and control capabilities and the continuity to future commands that will enhance effectiveness. And more broadly this commitment by this powerful alliance of nations will greatly assist Afghanistan’s transition to peace and its political, economic and social development.
We would also like to strengthen or remember that the three men who have commanded ISAF have all been keenly aware that if one wants to succeed in maintaining peace and security in Kabul, then one cannot ignore insecurity in the rest of the country. While we know and understand that ISAF 4’s primary focus and responsibility will be on the capital, we look forward to working with the Afghan government, the Coalition and the United Nations in the pressing surge for solutions to challenges posed by insecurity across Afghanistan. This insecurity needs to be urgently addressed if an environment is to be created where reconstruction can thrive, state institutions can be rebuilt and free and fair elections can be held.
NATO is indeed taking over ISAF at a time when the debate on how to improve security across the country as a whole is assuming a new dimension and a new urgency, as the processes leading to national elections and a new constitution are getting on the way. To refer only to the 2004 elections it is undoubtedly one of the remarkable consequences of the success of ISAF that the capital enjoys the greatest level of political freedom in Afghanistan and where an opposition party can emerge and operate in relative safety. The situation at the same time serves only to bring into relief a very unsatisfactory state of affairs outside of Kabul, where freedom of expression and association are more often threatened by factional interests of extremist forces. I will therefore reiterate our warmest welcome to General Gliemeroth and to NATO into this rather unique partnership that has developed between the people of Afghanistan and the international community. Ambassador Brahimi and all the members of the UN family are very keen to develop with NATO and General Gliemeroth a very close partnership on behalf of the conclusion of this process.
Thank you very much.