the Netherlands

24 Oct. 2007

Statement to the press

by NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer
at the joint press conference after the meeting
of NATO defence ministers

JAAP DE HOOP SCHEFFER (Secretary General of NATO): Very good afternoon to all of you, ladies and gentlemen. Sorry to keep you waiting a bit, but it was an interesting meeting. But let me start by thanking wholeheartedly our host, Minister van Middelkoop of the Netherlands, who is hosting us so graciously in Noordwijk in the Netherlands today and tomorrow. A perfect organisation, a very good atmosphere and we had an interesting meeting, which as you might have expected focused very much on Afghanistan. No surprise to you nor a surprise to us.

Let me pre-empt one of the questions you're going to ask us first. It was not a force generation conference. This is not about generating forces, but let me say at the outset that there will be a force generation conference in early November and this afternoon in the course of the discussion I have heard offers... I've noticed offers from nations, including for the southern part of Afghanistan, so I hope that will be followed up.

What have we done? We had a political exchange on how the NATO mission is doing and it will not come as a surprise to you that many Ministers mentioned what is within the NATO strategy, one of our main priorities, which is training. Training the Afghan National Army, training the Afghan National Police, although that is not a prime NATO responsibility, and there, I think, we can do better than we have done up till now.

It is so essential that we train the Afghan National Army. Why is that? We're in the second phase of our commitment in Afghanistan as I see it. The first phase was just after the Taliban were chased out. That was doing what was necessary for that in the military sense.

Now we're in the second phase, the most complicated phase, because it's doing and reconstruction and development, and at the same, as we see, mainly in the south, but also elsewhere, being in combat from time to time. That is the most complicated phase.

The third phase is, should be, that we are successful in training and equipping the Afghan National Army, so that they can be in the forefront and the NATO ISAF force can slowly be a bit more in the back. That moment has not arrived yet. Let's not raise any misunderstandings in this regard, but those are the three phases as I see them, and that is why training is so important.

I told you already I heard offers from nations, including for the south, because as you know, we have not completely filled what our military advise us on the forces we need. No reason to use words like crises as I saw in Dutch and other media. We have 90 percent, 9-0 percent filled of what we need, but you'll only see a completely happy and satisfied NATO Secretary General when we have filled 100 percent.

And there are still shortages. We discussed those shortages, and there were, of course, appeals by all to fill this, what we call in our jargon, combined joint statements of requirements. In layman's terms, what we need in the military sense. So filling this, and we're making progress, and training is of the utmost importance.

And the training, as you know, is mainly focused on the Operational Mentoring and Liaison Teams, and we need more of that.

I think, as you know, NATO playing a supportive role, a supporting role, I should say, in the very important counter-narcotics efforts, I think NATO-ISAF here should do the maximum within the agreed operational plan, within the agreed framework, that is assisting the Afghan authorities. You'll not see NATO-ISAF forces eradicating poppy fields, but we should do the maximum, I think, within the framework of our operational plan to be supportive in counter-narcotics efforts.

There was an interesting discussion on improving what I would qualify as our strategic messaging. I have made some remarks in Copenhagen not that long ago about improving our strategic messaging. I think it is still of the utmost importance to answer the questions why we are there, to shield people from brutality.

Why we are there? Because the United Nations and the Security Council asked us to be there, to help rebuild and reconstruct Afghanistan, and why we are there, third element, Afghanistan is a front-line against terrorism.

Those messages, shielding people from brutality, building and reconstructing the Afghan nation, and being active as NATO in the fight against terrorism, I think, are three convincing arguments, but we need... we need to step up our strategic messaging in this regard.

There was also, because this session was on operations, there was also, of course, attention for Kosovo, where you know that the NATO Allies support the Troika process, which is at the moment ongoing. Hopefully being able to find a solution for the status of Kosovo. NATO is, of course, there, 16,000 KFOR soldiers. We'll keep up that level. There is, of course, not a single argument to bring down the force levels. We have to see to it that KFOR is ready for all eventualities, that KFOR is able to protect majority and minority alike, and in the meantime, of course, the NATO Allies are doing what is necessary, in the framework of KFOR, to be sensitive and sensible for all eventualities.

I'll stop here. In a moment we'll have a discussion on Afghanistan, again, in the presence of Defence Minister General Wardak, Minister Wardak and the European Union, the World Bank and, of course, first and foremost the United Nations, to answer the all-important question, if we say “we” in the framework of our Operation in Afghanistan who is “we”?

And the definition of “we” is certainly not only NATO. NATO-ISAF plays a very important part, but “we” is the necessity for a permanent and long-term commitment of the International Community, the UN, the EU, the World Bank, as much as NATO, as much as NATO, and that is the reason—not because NATO would like to coordinate all the other international organizations, they can do that better themselves—but we need a comprehensive approach to Afghanistan and vis-à-vis Afghanistan and there the International Community should show cohesion. That is the reason that we'll have this meeting we're having in a minute.

Tomorrow morning we'll have a meeting on NATO's Transformation. I'll be back to you tomorrow morning. And we have a meeting, as you know in the framework of the NATO-Russia Council with our Russian colleague, Defence Minister Serdyukov.

May I now, with great pleasure, pass the floor to Minister van Middelkoop? Eimert.