Updated: 10-Feb-2004 NATO Speeches


9 Feb. 2004


by NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer at the ISAF Change of Command Ceremony

President Karzai,
Distinguished Guests,

It is an honour for me to be here with you for this important event. When I first arrived at NATO Headquarters last month, I said that Afghanistan was NATO’s top priority. The importance of Afghanistan was a central theme of the meetings I had with Alliance leaders during my first month in office. And I want to underscore it also here in Kabul today.

We know now that our future security, wherever we are, depends on Afghanistan’s security.

And we will do what we must to help you, President Karzai, your government and the people of this country build a better, safer and more prosperous future.

When NATO took charge of the International Security Assistance Force last August, that was a clear demonstration of the international community's deep commitment to help bring a better future to Afghanistan and its people.

A lot has already been achieved. A representative interim Afghan government is up and running, working closely with the international community in rebuilding the country. Countless reconstruction projects have improved the daily lives of many citizens. New state institutions are being created for the benefit of the Afghan people. And the adoption by last month’s Loya Jirga of a new constitution means that a real political process is now well on track.

The credit for this must go, first and foremost, to the Afghan people. President Karzai, you have led your people, under the most difficult circumstances, towards a better future.

I congratulate you, and all those who have stood with you. Let me assure you that NATO and the international community will continue to support you as much as we can.

Close co-operation among many international actors and the Afghan government also remains an essential element for success. And that unity of purpose will remain critical in the years to come.

Afghanistan still faces great challenges. Security must be established throughout the country. Governance must be unified further and made truly representative. Lawlessness, organised crime, and the production and trafficking of narcotics must be brought under control. Returning refugees must be successfully integrated back into the life of the country. And reconstruction and development must take root and flourish.

NATO will play its part. Working with the Afghan authorities to spread security and stability. And working with other international organisations and NGOs that are able to assist in other areas. Minister Cetin, NATO’s Senior Civilian Representative, will play a key role in this process.

NATO and the rest of the international community are here to help. But it is clear that there are limits to what we can do. The mantle of responsibility for Afghanistan’s future rests with its people and, in particular, their leaders. They must look to the future, not the past. I am confident they will continue to show the courage, and the determination, to help their country forward.

Lieutenant General Gliemeroth,

Under your able leadership, ISAF has performed superbly under the most challenging circumstances. You have assumed important new responsibilities, including for the German-led Provincial Reconstruction Team in Kunduz. And you have been instrumental in strengthening our relationship with the Afghan Transitional Authority, with other international organisations and, most importantly, with the people of Afghanistan. Thank you most sincerely for your courage, your dedication and your professionalism.

Lieutenant General Hillier,

You are a highly decorated professional who has served both his country and several multinational commands with great distinction. You are taking over the command of ISAF at a crucial time. Under your watch and guidance, ISAF will expand further outside Kabul, and seek to achieve greater synergies with operation Enduring Freedom. And with a view to the upcoming elections, ISAF will provide the maximum support possible to Afghanistan's government and its people. You and the men and women of ISAF will, I am sure, do an excellent job.

To the NATO soldiers serving in ISAF I say thank you. Just a few days ago I chaired a meeting of NATO Defence Ministers. They pledged their strong support, and that of the NATO Governments, for the Alliance’s engagement in Afghanistan, and for the men and women carrying out this job under difficult circumstances. Rest assured that, as Secretary General of NATO, I will stand by you and help you to fulfil this vital mission.

You should have no doubt: you are making the lives of the people of this country better. You are helping make this whole region more stable. And you are helping ensure that terrorism doesn’t strike your homes from this country again. You should be proud. NATO is proud of you.

I also want to recall those NATO soldiers who gave their lives while carrying out this noble mission. Their sacrifice will always be remembered, and the progress we see today and that we will witness in the future in Afghanistan is their memorial.

Ladies and Gentlemen.

We have our eyes open. We know that there is a great deal of work ahead of us. But let there be no doubt: the Alliance will maintain and increase its commitment and capabilities in this country.

If we continue to work together – NATO, the international community and the people and government of Afghanistan – we will succeed.

Thank You.

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