Updated: 13-May-2005 NATO Speeches


11 May 2005

Joint press point

with NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and the President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, H.E. Mr. Hamid Karzai after the North Atlantic Council meeting with non-NATO ISAF contributors

10/05/2005 - NATO
Visit to NATO by the President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, H.E. Mr. Hamid Karzai on Wednesday, 11 May 2005
Audio file of the press point (.MP3/5808kb)
High resolution photos


NATO SPOKESMAN: The Secretary General and the President will make brief opening statements, and then we'll have time for some questions.

JAAP DE HOOP SCHEFFER (Secretary General of NATO): Good morning. Once again, Mr. President, good morning.

It's a privilege and a pleasure for the North Atlantic Council and for NATO partner countries who are contributing troops to ISAF, to have this distinguished and important visitor President Karzai here today. And we just had, I think, a very good meeting with the North Atlantic Council, and the, as we call them, non-NATO troop-contributing nations. And before the President and I had a brief bilateral meeting.

It goes without saying that Afghanistan was, is and stays a top priority for NATO. Why? Because first of all, we want to support the Afghan people, the Afghan government, but also because our security, I think, is very closely linked to the security in Afghanistan. And as a result, you know that NATO—not only NATO, that goes for more members of the international community—is showing and has a long-term commitment to Afghanistan and it was important to hear from President Karzai how he sees the beautiful results achieved so far, but also, of course, the big challenges ahead.

Talking about the challenges ahead, you know NATO's position. We are expanding the role of the International Security Assistant Force to the west of Afghanistan at the moment, Herat and surrounding provinces. We are preparing what we call the third phase of expansion, which is to Kandahar, to the south. And hopefully phase number four, the southeast, will also be achievable. And we'll have more and more Provincial Reconstruction Teams under ISAF and under NATO command.

Secondly, we are preparing for NATO support to the very important parliamentary provincial elections on the 18th of September in Afghanistan. We'll do that along the same lines, along which we supported the presidential elections, so we'll be there, we'll support the President and the government. And as ISAF expands in Afghanistan, of course, it is also of great importance that we discuss— and we'll do that once again when NATO Defence Ministers will meet here in Brussels in the beginning of June—the relationship and the greater synergy between the International Security Assistance Force and Operation Enduring Freedom.

Let me finally say that NATO is, of course, very much committed, as I said, but also interested as an important player, in what's going to happen in Afghanistan and with Afghanistan. Of course, on the basis of Afghan ownership - that's the key of the whole exercise.

What will happen after the Bonn Process will come formally to an end—you know, the Bonn Process ends with the parliamentary elections in September— that will be a big and need... a big commitment of the international community. NATO will play its part in the Bonn Process. It's first of all, up to President Karzai, up to the United Nations, let's say, to define the road map post-Bonn. NATO will play its part in that road map because if the international community, and that's the case, has the ambition for a longer-term commitment to Afghanistan, I think we need a road map, we need a post-Bonn strategy, and I'm sure President Karzai, the United Nations, NATO, the European Union, the major donor countries, will be as committed to fill out and to fill in that road map as well as they can.

Mr. President, it is a pleasure that you came to NATO this morning. Please take the floor.

HAMID KARZAI (President of Afghanistan): Thank you very much.

Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary General. It's a tremendous pleasure for us to be here at NATO, to thank NATO for what NATO has done in Afghanistan for the past three years, and thank him for the increasing responsibility that it is taking in Afghanistan, with regard to the security issues and the provision of security on a daily basis to the Afghan people. And also to remind ourselves and to thank the member states of NATO for the life that they've given in Afghanistan in order to secure the daily lives of the Afghan people. I particularly thank member states of the NATO countries for their contribution and the sacrifice that the soldiers, the sons and daughters of NATO and the countries have made in Afghanistan.

While we should be happy and very proud of the progress that we have made in Afghanistan—the Afghan people and the international community together—we must be aware that we're not at the end of the road, that Afghanistan has a longer journey to travel, and that long journey will need the continuation of international assistance to Afghanistan.

In particular, NATO's assistance to Afghanistan as it is increasing its role in the country.

I informed members of the North Atlantic Council this morning that with the parliamentary elections in Afghanistan, the Bonn Process will come to an end, but the end of the Bonn Process and the arrival of the Afghan Parliament will not mean that Afghanistan is suddenly very, very stable and good and that all the troubles are behind us. No, we will continue to have a lot of difficulties in Afghanistan—narcotics one of them. The residues of terrorism will continue to be there again; and Afghan institutions will continue to need sustained and regular assistance in order eventually to be able to stand on its own feet.

So in order for Afghanistan to be able to stand on its own feet, and no longer be a burden on the shoulders of the international community, the international community's assistance in Afghanistan beyond Parliament will be needed for many, many years to come. We will tell the world when we are surely, firmly on our feet, and at that time we will take responsibilities in our own country for the security of our people, for institutions and Afghanistan at that time will become a good partner with the international security force.

So for now, in short, I'm here to thank NATO and to ask for continuation of assistance to Afghanistan beyond our Parliament. Thank you very much.

Q: Mark John from Reuters News Agency with a question for President Karzai. What's your reaction to the very violent protests going on in some parts of Afghanistan today, following reports of U.S. soldiers' abuses of the Koran? And do these protests not show that perhaps the anti-American sentiment in Afghanistan has been overestimated by the authorities? Or underestimated.

KARZAI: It is not the anti-American sentiment. It is a protest over that news of the desecration of the Holy Koran in Guantanamo. It's also a manifestation of democracy. Afghanistan is now a democratic country. People can come out and protest and demonstrate and express themselves. It also shows that Afghanistan's institutions, the police and the army are not yet ready to handle protests and demonstrations. You saw that the police did not react when the people went and burned the governor's office. Because the governor said don't use violence, so the police just stood there.

So we're a long way from an institutional strength in Afghanistan to handle democratic protests and when such protests will be on democracy and turn violent. The event this morning shows two things: One, that Afghanistan is a democratic state. Two, that Afghanistan as a democratic state is not yet ready with institutions to handle it.

Q: A question for President Karzai. Are you satisfied with the rollout of NATO forces in Afghanistan? Do you feel that that needs to be stepped up or accelerated? Do you feel also that the international community has enough of a long-term strategy in dealing with problems like the drug problem?

And a question for the Secretary General, if I may? When President Karzai talks about wanting international assistance for years and years to come, are you comfortable with that, as NATO Secretary General? Is NATO comfortable with that kind of open-ended commitment?

KARZAI: The NATO role in Afghanistan is expanding. As you know, NATO will be expanding to many more parts of the country by 2006. It already has taken a leading role. And eventually NATO will be the leading security force in Afghanistan. It will be having responsibilities beyond what it has today in the form of ISAF and the PRTs.

And we welcome that. We are confident that NATO will have sufficient level of forces and commitment in Afghanistan as its role expands in our country.

With regard to narcotics, the fight is a joint fight between the Afghan people and the international community against narcotics. We have achieved some results in the fight against narcotic until there's a reduction of poppy cultivation. But the Afghan people will definitely be able to fight the spread of narcotics in our country better, the menace of narcotics in our country better, with a sustained, very well-thought-out plan for alternative livelihood. That is the component that we're not very sure about yet, that we don't have a good picture about yet. That is what we want from the international community, to provide to the Afghan people. A sustained, long-term alternative livelihood so that people are not forced to go back to poppies.

DE HOOP SCHEFFER: It is clear that the NATO presence, the international presence, but I'm speaking on behalf of NATO, of course, in Afghanistan, has as its objective that finally the Afghan government, the Afghan authorities, the Afghan army, the Afghan police, President Karzai spoke about this, will be able institutionally, and in other ways, to take responsibility for their own country. I mentioned Afghan ownership. That's key.

I think NATO has always realized, together with our partners, that this is a longer-term commitment. And what that longer-term commitment exactly will entail in years is, of course, difficult to say. I would say as soon as possible, and I think I would have President Karzai on my side if I say as soon as possible. But we also realize that this is not yet the moment to say, echoing what the President said, that the Afghanistan can be entirely on its own. That's simply not the case. And that's the reason, that Afghanistan needs international commitment and NATO will take part in that international longer-term commitment. But it's, of course, very difficult and complicated to mentioned days or month or years. But we'll be there.

MODERATOR: Please identify yourselves.

Q: Thank you. Mack Yusef(?) from Nile News, Egyptian Television. Mr. President, you said that the challenge in Afghanistan is coming ahead. Does it mean that what is left from Taliban is still strong? And the second is, we heard some news talking about giving the... forgiving Mullah Mohammad Omar if he is going to leave the weapon. Does it... is it correct, this information, or not?

And for the Secretary General, it's obviously clear that the role of NATO in the security, but are you willing also to do some roles in fighting against drugs in Afghanistan?

KARZAI: When I say Afghanistan will continue to need assistance from the international community it's not only in relation to terrorism, or the Taliban. It's in relation to state-building in Afghanistan; institution-building in Afghanistan. The army, the police, the judiciary, the civil services, and all other institutions that any society with democratic government, with the democratic constitution will require: institution-building, efficient bureaucracy, clean, efficient judiciary, a proper military force, a police force that will be able to handle demonstrations, like the example I had today. What happened in Jalalabad today was simply... showed the inability of the state institutions. That has to be brought up better.

So it's with the overall institution-building in the country, and the economy and all that, that will require many years of support. We believe that the question of terrorism and the Taliban is a minor part of that. It's not something that concerns us. There are other things that we have to continue to work on to improve, in all... for Afghanistan not to fall again victim to terrorism.

Q: For Mullah Omar.

KARZAI: For Mullah Omar, we have offered a reintegration opportunity to those Taliban who are not part of al-Qaeda, who are not engaged in terrorism against Afghanistan, against security and peace in Afghanistan. A lot of them have come back and a lot of them are there. And Professor Mojadeddi, one of the very respected Afghans is heading that commission. They're busy with this question of the return of Taliban back to the community and the civilian life.

DE HOOP SCHEFFER: It is clear that the prime responsibility in counter-narcotics is with the President and the Afghan government, and the President shows this and the Afghan government shows this. And secondly we have, as you know, the division of responsibility in the framework of the G8, where the United Kingdom has the lead as far as assisting in drug eradication is concerned. Which is, as we all know, a very complicated problem indeed.

NATO, ISAF, within, let's say, the boundaries, I should say, of the operational plan, of what the Provincial Reconstruction Teams can do and can't do, is assisting wherever that's possible. But NATO does not have prime responsibility, but we are assisting, we are helping, but I think we should leave the responsibilities where they are. But whatever we are able to do we will do.

MODERATOR: Last question.

Q: Many have (inaudible) the presence in the south by other American forces is a kind of occupation. Don't you think that it could be replaced by the NATO forces? And second question: You talk about amnesty, a kind of amnesty for Mullah Omar and for the Taliban who don't have any contact with al-Qaeda, but don't you think that Mullah Omar have contact with them, and the...?

KARZAI: We have not spoken of amnesty for Mullah Omar. We have spoken of amnesty for the Taliban, those Taliban who want to come back and live in their country peacefully. It is for those people. Those who are part of al-Qaeda, who are part of the continuation of terrorism are not going to be given amnesty. That's not what President Mojadeddi meant. So you have to note that.

As far as the Americans are concerned, I don't think the people in the southern parts of the country consider the Americans as an occupation. They consider them as a force fighting terrorism and helping Afghanistan and when NATO comes to replace American forces the U.S. forces will be part of the NATO. So for the Afghan people there is not really a distinction between NATO or Americans or ISAF. It's the security that the friendly forces, the foreign forces in Afghanistan provide to the Afghan people for their daily lives.

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