|Updated: 30-Oct-2006||NATO Speeches|
8 June 2005
Minister of Defence of Sweden
Secretary General, dear colleagues,
First of all; thank you for inviting me and other non-Allied troop contributors to this meeting. This is the first time we meet at Ministerial level in this format, and it marks another step in developing troop contributor cooperation. I look forward to more meetings in this format, including for other missions where non-NATO countries are participating.
Sweden is a substantial troop contributor to NATO-led operations. Since March we are leading the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Mazar-e Sharif. To be able to carry out this demanding task, Sweden, as well as other troop contributors, depend on access to information and assessments. The invitation to this meeting is recognition of our mutual interest in keeping each other informed about a mission where we share common risks, aims and goals.
I arrived in Brussels yesterday after a short but interesting and fruitful visit to the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Mazar-e Sharif where I met with the Swedish troops and their partners.
Leading the work in an area covering four provinces is clearly a challenge. But let me assure you, the Swedish men and women, together with partners from Finland, Denmark, Romania, France and the USA are carrying out their tasks with honor and professionalism. We are pleased Poland will join our team later this year.
The future of Afghanistan is our common concern and ISAF has a fundamental role in providing security and stabilization. I encourage all partner countries to facilitate the conduct of this UN-mandated and NATO-led operation, including all practical measures. The security situation has not improved and we need to contribute sufficient troops and material to meet the requirements covering the whole mission. We should aim for contributions without caveats, thereby maximizing the flexibility for commanders on the ground, while minimizing the risk for our men and women. As troop contributing nations we should share information and intelligence relevant for the operation.
We all need the full support of NATO in order to limit serious implications on the planning and conduct of operations. One special concern for Sweden in this field is communication and information systems. To my understanding NATO no later than 2006 is to implement a “Operational awareness system” to replace the former system called NATO Friendly Forces Tracking system. Sweden welcomes this improvement. It would increase the security for our soldiers but also operational awareness on all levels when needed.
Sweden welcomes and attaches great importance to the on-going work on an exchange of letters between NATO and the Government of Afghanistan concerning the transfer of ISAF detainees to the Afghan authorities. We hope this project can be concluded shortly. We also appreciate the efforts on joint transit agreements to facilitate transportations to and from Afghanistan. This is an important way of facilitating the operation, and Allies and Partners share a responsibility to facilitate their implementation.
Through ISAF we are all contributing to the reconstruction of Afghanistan. We do so in partnership with the Government of Afghanistan and the Afghani people. As visitors in Afghanistan, ISAF and the rest of the international community must set a good example in the struggle against destructive elements. The international community’s intentions and way of acting should never have to be questioned. As Ministers of Defence we need to make sure that the agreed Codes of Conduct are put into effect.
The multifunctionality of the Provincial Reconstruction Teams is vital and important but we should not carry out activities, which could be handled better by other organizations and agencies. A clear division of labor, without harming the combined efforts to rebuild Afghanistan, is important. The Swedish-led Provincial Reconstruction Team is not a constructor but an enabler. We deliver security and stabilization for the Afghan authorities, the UN, EU and NGOs to be able to function in our area of operation. The civil-military structure of the Provincial Reconstruction Team also enables a comprehensive approach to Afghani and international efforts in this area. Through our civil advisors we can communicate with non-military actors and make sure that our efforts are mutually reinforcing. We must avoid projects where schools or hospitals are built but no teachers and doctors are hired to run them.
At the moment the Swedish-led Provincial Reconstruction Team in Mazar-e Sharif works in a different security environment than its colleagues in the south of Afghanistan. But when operating in a more challenging environment, let us not forget about the possible success stories. Among our four provinces up north we have two fairly stable. It is our joint responsibility to continue the efforts to ensure enduring stabilization. This is hard work and completely different from the work carried out in those areas where units are involved in combat and other difficulties.
The international community is deeply involved in the reconstruction of Afghanistan. NATO and the concept of Provincial Reconstruction Teams must take these wider efforts into account, including other bilateral contributions by ISAF troop contributing nations. We therefore fully support a harmonization of the concept of Provincial Reconstruction Teams in order to strengthen our activities in Afghanistan. In addition, such a harmonization process needs to reflect lessons learned and the demands on the ground. Things are different in the north of Afghanistan compared to the southern and eastern parts of the country. The Provincial Reconstruction Teams in Mazar-e Sharif does not need to carry out humanitarian aid and development work but seeks to enable those actors who are best set to do so; the Afghan authorities UN, EU and NGOs.
We must continue our support for the Afghani People and Defence Minister Wardak and the Government of Afghanistan need to lead the way so that the international community can help in achieving long-term stabilization and development. Afghan ownership is essential if Afghanistan should ever be able to act on its own. That is also the only viable exit strategy for ISAF.