Updated: 01-Apr-2004 NATO Speeches


31 March 2004


by NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer
at the Afghanistan Conference

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I appreciate the opportunity to say a few words on behalf of the North Atlantic Alliance at this important meeting hosted by the German and Afghan Governments.

Following the landmark Bonn conference in 2001 which set in train the transformation process we are witnessing in Afghanistan, it is highly appropriate for the International community and our Afghan friends to meet in Berlin to take stock of our achievements to date and to look at the way ahead. Throughout this process, NATO has played a key role and will continue to do so.

Afghanistan is a top priority for NATO. Our own security is closely linked to the future of Afghanistan as a stable, secure country where citizens can rebuild their lives after decades of war. Afghanistan is also part of the new challenges NATO wants to address as part of its transformation set in train at the Prague Summit in November 2002. That is why, last summer, the Alliance made the political commitment to take charge of the International Security Assistance Force. And it is why NATO is determined to see this mission through, and to make it a success.

We have already made real achievements. The security provided by ISAF has already helped progress in a number of areas.

While NATO has facilitated this progress, President Karzai and his government have driven it. I want to salute them to encourage them to stay the course and to assure them of the Alliance’s continuing support.

Despite this continuing progress, the challenges ahead are formidable. Security must be established throughout the country. Governance must be unified further and made truly representative. Poverty must be tackled, and economic reform must take root. Lawlessness, organised crime, and a growing drug trade must be brought under control. And returning refugees must be re integrated into society.

NATO will continue to play its part. Through its work with the Afghan authorities to spread security and stability. And through its close co operation with other international organisations and NGOs that are able to assist in other areas. NATO’s Senior Civilian Representative, Minister Cetin, already plays and will continue to play a key part in this process.

At the moment, the Alliance is working hard on the establishment of new - Provincial Reconstruction Teams under ISAF command. Through PRTs, in general, nations have shown their commitment to the stabilisation of Afghanistan. In a short period of time, many PRTs have been established, showing a unique resolve to assist the Afghan authorities. Through the PRTs, we want to help the Afghan Government to extend its authority, and to spread security more widely in the country. In addition, PRTs may assist in the reform of Afghanistan’s defence and security sector, and facilitate wider reconstruction efforts.

We are glad that the concept of PRTs enjoys the full support of the Afghan Government. And we are pleased that a large number of ordinary Afghans have welcomed the establishment of PRTs as well.

We are about to finalise plans for NATO to take charge of a substantial number of PRTs in addition to the one in Kunduz we already took over from Germany in December. I want to thank those Allies, Partners and other nations who have offered to contribute to additional PRTs – and to strongly encourage other nations to consider pitching in as well.

In addition to the establishment of PRTs, NATO is also looking at ways in which it can meet President Karzai’s request to help secure a proper environment for the elections in September. This will require a further expansion of ISAF. This work is well in hand.

Clearly, the main responsibility for creating this environment lies with the Afghan security forces. But we all realise the importance of free and fair elections to the political process in Afghanistan. And so NATO is examining how it can help, in co ordination with the Afghan Government, the United Nations, and the leadership of Operation Enduring Freedom.

More generally, the relationship between ISAF and Operation Enduring Freedom remains crucial to the success of the international community’s engagement, and hence the future of Afghanistan. The fact that several Allies take part in both operations has encouraged excellent and constructive co operation. As ISAF assumes greater responsibilities beyond Kabul, we want to keep a close eye on opportunities to complement and reinforce each other’s efforts.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The NATO Allies are very well aware of the crucial importance of Afghanistan - and so are our Partners and other countries who are engaged with us in the country. We all know that our security depends on Afghanistan’s security. And we all know that, if we want to win the war against terrorism, we must first win the peace in Afghanistan.

Winning the peace in Afghanistan is a daunting challenge. It will require strong determination on the part of the people of Afghanistan and their political leaders. But it will also require a sustained and well co ordinated commitment on the part of the international community. The NATO Alliance will continue to play its part in that effort.

Thank you.

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