Updated: 22-Nov-2005 NATO Speeches


21 Nov. 2005

Video Background Briefing

by the NATO Spokesman

Audio file .MP3/4680Kb
Video interview
James Appathurai

JAMES APPATHURAI (NATO Spokesman): Hello and welcome to the latest in our regular series of briefings on what's going on here at NATO Headquarters. I have received during the past few weeks an e-mail from someone who watches these on a regular basis who has complained that I don't necessarily follow an agenda and tend occasionally to repeat myself and has suggested that I put my briefing up on the teleprompter.

As you will see from this briefing, I decided not to use a teleprompter so I'm sorry to my very small fan club but I will continue to do this just off the cuff -so I apologize for any repetition. Let me address this week three issues: Afghanistan, the Balkans and in particular Kosovo and then look ahead in particular to the ministerial that's coming up here in just a couple of weeks.

Let me start with Afghanistan because it is of course one of the -if not the- top issue on our agenda on a week to week basis. As those... those of you who tune in regularly know, we are, the Alliance is planning a major expansion of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force -ISAF- into the South of the country with several thousand troops. The operational plan for this mission, this expanded mission is now under discussion between the NATO nations, including what roles NATO will play, how it will relate to the US-led coalition, Operation Enduring Freedom. Issues to do with the rules of engagement, for example are also being looked at.

In essence, this operation has gone in a very short period of time from being just in Kabul, the capital of the country, to stretch out now to three quarters of the country, with very, very different environments within that area of operation... Different... different requirements... different requirements not just in terms of what is being done but in terms of the threat in the environment in which the nations find themselves, the nation's troops will find themselves.

So as I say, rules of engagement, for example, will be adjusted to be more robust to give the NATO troops -throughout the country, not just in the South- the opportunity and the rules of engagement to defend themselves robustly. There will be still be two distinct missions in Afghanistan : Operation Enduring Freedom and the NATO-led ISAF mission. They will be working in ever-closer synergy -because they will be very much located side by side- they will depend on each other where necessary, they will deconflict where necessary.

And as I mention, the NATO troops, while not engaging in offensive combat operations to hunt down Taliban, hunt down Al-Qaïda as part of their main mission, will have the rules of engagement, will have the equipment as well necessary to defend themselves as necessary in a robust manner, as they deploy into the South. There are... a few milestones along the way for NATO's planning for this operation. As I mentioned, the operational plan is under discussion here, the military committee has looked at it, NATO ambassadors, NATO capitals are looking at it again in a political sense, with an aim to achieving endorsement by the upcoming ministerial in early December. There is no rush in that the plan expansion of the NATO-led mission is not foreseen until early to mid next year, more like the spring of 2006.

So there is no rush but certainly, there is an aim within this organization to prove the operational plan and have it endorse by ministers by early December at the foreign ministers meeting which will allow plenty of time for prudent planning force generation and deployment in time for our schedule.

There is also, at the end of January, an important conference that will take place in London to discuss what some might call the Kabul Agenda, what some might call the Afghan Agenda, and that is to map out the long-term international engagement for the country, including the UN, including NATO, including the G8, the major donors. What will the international community do... community do in support of the Afghan government to help them meet their goals, including the development of the government, the development of the armed forces, the development of the Afghan national police, and of course addressing what is perhaps the central challenge to Afghanistan's future, which is no longer terrorism; it is narcotics.

And so the international community, led by president Karzai, let by the Afghan government, at this London conference will map out an overall approach to what each organization will do. NATO of course is very determined to stay the course and to play its part but also, that all of the other participants, all of the other international players should also play their part. NATO alone cannot solve all of these issues; it can only be part of the international team -and that is the message that the Secretary General is likely to carry to the London Conference.

Let me turn quickly to the Balkans, and in particular, Kosovo. President Martti Ahtisaari, who has been named by Kofi Annan to lead the status talks for Kosovo has come to NATO Headquarters and discussed with the Secretary General of NATO. His plans for how he kept plans to carry forward, his efforts to help bring conclusion to the status issue for Kosovo. The Secretary General made it clear to President Ahtisaari that NATO is very willing to associate itself to his efforts and will do that, of course upon request -and only upon request- from President Ahtisaari. But if he wants NATO to be associated with his efforts, NATO stands ready to do that.

At the same time, it should go without saying that K-4, for the NATO-led peacekeeping force in Kosovo, it is there, it's there to stay. K-4 is restructuring to be more float... more flexible, more mobile, more visible in the field; but K-4 will continue to play its essential role of underpinning the political process. And the Secretary General has delivered a very clear message to all parties that any attempt to derail or divert the political process that is being led by President Ahtisaari through violence on the ground will be met by K-4 with a very stiff response; K-4 will carry out its role to maintain peace and security, to allow the political process led by president Ahtisaari to go forward.

Let me turn now to the third item of this briefing -and that is the upcoming foreign ministers meetings that will take place here at NATO on the eighth of December beginning with a meeting of the North Atlantic Council, in other words of the NATO foreign ministers on their own discussing a whole host of issues, including of course operational issues. Afghanistan, the training mission in Iraq, the operation in Kosovo, the support, humanitarian support mission for Pakistan, all of these need to be discussed, they will be discussed and the ministers will set forward a path for the future. How to continue our support in Kosovo, the expansion in Afghanistan, the prospects for the training mission in Iraq, and of course, they will have a good look at the humanitarian relief operation in Pakistan and the extent to which it should be modified, and of course, direct consultation with the Pakistani authorities.

There will then be a meeting of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council -that is the grouping that brings together the 26 NATO countries and the 20 partner countries, countries across Europe through Central Asia and into the Caucasus . They will discuss many issues relating to the various regional challenges that the wider European family faces as well as cross-cutting issues such as values that are shared -and the extent to which they are shared- across, again the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council community.

There will then be meetings of the NATO-Russia Council and the NATO-Ukraine Commission. The NATO-Russia Council is of course the body that brings together the 26 NATO nations and Russia , that's 27 countries to discuss practical cooperation. The agenda for this will be set out in the coming days and I'll make that more clear in direct press contacts as we get closer to the meeting.

And then there will be finally a meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission. This is a 26 + 1 body, in other words NATO and the Ukrainians sitting down to discuss what is now an ongoing discussion of intensified dialogue. In other words, the relationship that NATO has with Ukraine has taken a step to be more profound; NATO is providing more assistance for a more defined Ukrainian program that will help Ukraine meet its own aspirations to come closer to the Alliance. And Ministers will want to discuss that as well.

We have had just recently -and you will see this on the Website was well- a visit from high level Ukrainian cultural figures including Eurovision Song Contest Ruslana. So we do continue our engagement with Ukraine on a variety of fronts.

That's all I wish to address for this month.

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