Updated: 30-Jun-2004 NATO Speeches


29 June 2004

Press Conference

with NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer
and President Karzai of Afghanistan

NATO Istanbul Summit
Video file of the press conference .WMV/4042Kb
Audio file of the press conference .MP3/ 4218Kb
High resolution photos

de Hoop Scheffer:.. (inaudible)...of Mr. Karzai (inaudible)... let we say that the President and myself had (inaudible)...just a minute ago on the basis of the decisions taken by NATO Heads of State and Government yesterday.

I think those decisions (inaudible)... that yesterday are very positive ones, meaning that the number of PRTs in the north will increase so that stability and security can be spread over a larger part of the country; that NATO is also preparing to even set up more PRTs in the more western parts of the country; and last, but not least, that NATO is going to provide electoral support, that NATO will assist the Afghan National Army, the Afghan police, when the... in the period that the elections are going to be held.

I think these are positive decisions. We have taken stock, President Karzai and myself, of the present situation in Afghanistan as far as the preparations for the elections are at the moment. We have discussed the need for close coordination between all the ones involved in Afghanistan in preparing for these elections. First of all, of course, the Afghan government, but also the United Nations, European Union, the international donor community, and NATO.

I think there's a need for close coordination, also on the ground in Kabul. And President Karzai has explained the present situation in the country and of course, the preparations for the all-important elections in the country.

That's by way of introduction. Mr. President.

Karzai: Thank you very much.

Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary General. It's been very nice of you to work so hard to bring us the forces that we need in Afghanistan for better security for our people, for the improvement of their economic life, for enabling them to live on a daily basis in a more secure environment.

And also, most importantly, for the purposes of a free and fair election that we're going to have in a few months time in Afghanistan.

The Afghan people have experienced the excellent performance of the ISAF forces, the International Security Assistance Force, in Kabul, in the way they have provided security for that Afghan people, in the way that security has enabled the Afghan people to be economically active, to invite the private sector, and to create an economic environment and activity there.

I'm sure the deployment of the forces that you decided yesterday to bring to Afghanistan, with the equipment that they have, will bring a sense of better security, higher activity for the Afghan people, to make their life better.

I'm here today with you, Mr. Secretary General, to thank you for that, and I'm sure what you have done yesterday will bring to the Afghan people an improvement in a manner that will eventually cause Afghanistan to have institutions of its own to defend itself and to protect itself.

Thank you very much.

Questions and answers

de Hoop Scheffer: Let me say that... of course you know, but that Mr. President Karzai is going to address the European-Atlantic Partnership Council in a moment. Part of the meeting will be devoted to Afghanistan.

Q: Raymond Lloyd, the Parity Democrat, Westminster, to President Karzai. One of the most beautiful photos in the world is that of an Afghan refugee girl first shown in the National Geographic in 1985, and published as the cover of the Geographic's best ever 100 photos, republished in April 2002 when Sharbat Gula was found again and for which National Geographic readers spontaneously donated $900,000, which is being used to help 270 Afghan girls catch up with their education.

Could you not in some way ensure that every ISAF and American soldier receives a copy of this photo and the April 2002 article as a symbol of the nobility and goodness of the service they have been privileged to render to the women and men, girls and boys of Afghanistan?

Karzai: That's a... I know that photo very well. That's a very good suggestion. We'll try... we'll try to do that. It's a very good suggestion. Thank you very much.

Q: Paul Lynch(?) with the Associated Press. Secretary General, yesterday President Chirac ruled out using the NATO Response Force for the elections in Afghanistan. Can you tell us where the extra troops are going to come from for this exercise?

de Hoop Scheffer: Well, the extra troops will come, the details of which have to be worked out, but you can rest assured that we have the extra troops. I'm not yet going to name countries and details, but the forces which we have committed yesterday will be there, in theatre, and over the horizon, which means that we have forces in theatre to assist the Afghan National Army in the period of the elections, let's say in the period from six to eight weeks. Don't catch me on one day. And we have the over the horizon reserves. If the NRF will play a role in that whole structure is still a question......elements of the NRF might play a role.

But it's not yet a finished and done thing as far as that that's concerned. Because you know that NATO has other facilities in the sphere of what we call the SRF, the Strategic Reserve Forces.

Q: President Karzai, it's John Chalmers from Reuters. Is there any possibility that the elections may be delayed beyond September? And a second question if I may, how disappointed are you that NATO won't be providing security for the elections in other... in provinces other than those in the north?

Karzai: The most important element for elections, for any elections, as a matter of fact, is voters. We have the voters in Afghanistan. As of the day before yesterday evening we had registered five million and nine thousand voters all over the country. And I'm sure that figure has increased today to five million... 5.2 million voters.

Now, with the voters that we have elections are very much possible in Afghanistan.
The other element which is a lesser important element is the technical preparations for it. That is something that we have to see. Having promised the Afghan people elections in the month of September, and having had this remarkable successful registration of voters, we must go and we should go for elections in September. The Afghan people are expecting elections in September and we are targeting that month for elections.
With regard to the deployment of NATO forces in Afghanistan for the purposes of security for elections, the idea was not that NATO would be deployed all over the country, for security for elections. The idea was that they will be deployed in the parts of the country that has been decided yesterday. And we are happy with that. We have the coalition forces in other parts of the country, and we have ISAF in Kabul for that.

Q: (inaudible)... Yesterday NATO made a decision to send more troops and this is their promise for your country, but don't you think that this will... more foreign troops will provoke more terrorist attacks or more action from the dissidents?

Karzai: Well, terrorism will continue to be active in Afghanistan and around Afghanistan and internationally for some time. The fight against terrorism is going to be a long-term fight.

But terrorism was the government in Afghanistan. They were ruling our country two and a half years ago. They were defeated in a matter of two months. Now they are hiding, they're on the run. Now they're attacking soft targets, civilians, voter registration workers, women, workers of the reconstruction of the country, and other soft targets. So they're not really capable to pose a threat to the political process.

With regard to the international security forces in Afghanistan, from the first day of the interim government two and a half years ago, till today, the Afghan people keep coming to us and asking for international security forces in their part of the country, because they see that force as a stabilizing element, as an element that will protect them from whatever threats they can be posed with.

So as far as the Afghan people are concerned, the deployment of NATO forces and ISAF forces and coalition are providing protection to Afghanistan or enabling Afghanistan to maintain and protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity. That's how they see it.

Terrorism will go on and we'll keep fighting it.

de Hoop Scheffer: Thank you.

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