From the event

  • Weekly press briefing by NATO Spokesman, James Appathurai

23 Jan 2007

Weekly press briefing

by NATO Spokesman, James Appathurai

Ladies and gentlemen, shall we start. Let me thank you for coming, and for those who didn't make the trip up to NATO for our free champagne and hors d'oeuvres at the press reception let me wish you a Happy New Year. It is great to see you again.

Let me just address some scheduling issues, I'm sure, and a couple of other points. I'm sure there's a lot you want to discuss. I can guess at a few questions, but let me just address the more prosaic issues first.

To walk back a little, on the 18th of January, since we haven't met since then, just to confirm that the Ukrainian Foreign Minister Ohryzko did, indeed, meet with the Secretary General. He did, indeed, hand over a letter from the Ukrainian government, which discussed, amongst other things, the Membership Action Plan. The Secretary General received that letter. He has passed it on to the NATO ambassadors and that issue will be, of course, discussed among the NATO Allies.

On the 21st of January the Secretary General met with President Musharraf. There was a long discussion of the regional security situation. In particular, of course, the challenge that both Pakistan and Afghanistan face from extremist violence and terrorism.

The president, President Musharraf, outlined at length the steps that Pakistan is taking to deal with extremism and terrorism in his own country and to stem off... to stem support for insurgents in Afghanistan that might come from Pakistan.

The Secretary General stressed the need for continued military-to-military cooperation and that's not just between Pakistan and Afghanistan, but also including NATO, of course. That cooperation, as far as we can see, has not diminished, despite the difficulties that Pakistan has experienced in the past few weeks and months.

The Secretary General also stressed, and President Musharraf agreed, that we needed to step up our political level contacts as exemplified by the meeting itself and they will... we will look at ways to do that.

Finally, the Secretary General stressed the importance to the international community of a free and fair democratic election in Pakistan. President Musharraf, as he has done obviously publicly, committed... restated his commitment to do what is necessary to ensure that the elections are free and fair.

Today, we have had two high level visitors at NATO. One was Foreign Minister Rupel, who was speaking to the priorities of his country's EU presidency. It is the first time that I can recall that we have had that kind of high level briefing on an EU presidency at the Foreign Ministers' level. In this case it was very welcome. It was welcomed by all of the ambassadors, because of course we have a number of issues on our shared agenda, which we'll be pressing relatively soon, not least Kosovo where status... the status process could move forward relatively quickly.

He was followed at the NAC table by the Prime Minister of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia 1 , Mr. Gruevski. This is the second in a three-stage process of visits. The Croatian Prime Minister was here last week. This week the Prime Minister, of course, of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and next week the Prime Minister of Albania will be here as well.

All of them visiting NATO in anticipation of the end of the Membership Action Plan cycle in which they are now engaged and looking forward to the Bucharest Summit. Obviously the Bucharest Summit, one significant element of the Summit's deliverables will be decisions on membership and these countries are working hard to take the final steps before Bucharest when it comes to reform.

What the Prime Minister heard was a unanimous commitment amongst the NATO Allies to support the enlargement process and to support the membership aspirations of the three countries that are in the Membership Action Plan.

Second, congratulations on many of the reforms that have taken place, including defence reform, including on the level of defence spending, which is and will remain above two percent, the two percent benchmark which NATO considers to be very important. On reform of the armed forces and on steps taken to improve the political climate within the country, and that includes in particular to improve the political dialogue between government and opposition in the Parliament.

Third, however, the Prime Minister also heard messages of encouragement to keep up the reforms, that this may be the final lap before Bucharest, but that lap has not been completed yet, that further reforms should continue up to and beyond Bucharest, that those reforms should, amongst other things, ensure that what has been accomplished until now is made irreversible, that further progress should be made when it comes to improving, as I mentioned, the political climate in the country, further defence reform, further economic reform.

So strong words of encouragement to keep up the efforts as we see the Bucharest tape, the tape on the finish line approaching for at least... for the three MAP countries.

The Secretary General will... has now, in fact, taken off for the United Arab Emirates, where he will be tomorrow. He will... well, now this is an interesting question. He will meet with a number of high level officials, including the Prime Minister, but since a lot of this seems to be moving around I will say... limit myself to a lot of high level officials, including the Prime Minister because apparently the schedule is not a 100 percent firm.

He'll be back in time on Friday to meet Prime Minister Thaci of Kosovo. This will obviously be a meeting that attracts high political interest, as there will be... well, you can guess the subjects on the agenda. We, of course, from our perspective, will be interested to hear what Prime Minister Thaci has to say. He will hear I am quite sure, from the Secretary General, two things. One, that KFOR, regardless of how the status process goes forward, will remain committed to its UN mandate under 1244, and that will be to ensure a safe and secure environment, to ensure freedom of movement, to protect majority and minority alike. And that that mission will continue with current force levels and the current force structure and the necessary reserves, under Security Council Resolution 1244 for the foreseeable future.

And NATO's position on this is unanimous and clear. So he will hear them. Second, I am quite sure he will hear from the Secretary General the importance of ensuring that the status process goes forward in a coordinated and controlled fashion. That we need to work towards a system where... or a situation in which the status process is resolved, because the status quo is unsustainable. And that the ultimate solution for stability and security involvements is Euro-Atlantic integration. And that, of course, applies throughout the Balkan region.

On Tuesday, according to current planning. Prime Minister Tymoshenko of Ukraine will come to Brussels and will come to NATO Headquarters as well.

As far as I am aware she will meet with the Secretary General. I do not know if there is a meeting yet confirmed with the North Atlantic Council.

The final point I want to make now and then I'm happy to take your questions, is that next week a new NATO civilian... Senior Civilian Representative will arrive in Kabul. It is Ambassador Maurits Jochems of The Netherlands, who is at present a Deputy Assistant Secretary General and will remain a Deputy Assistant Secretary General of our Operations Division in NATO, but he is being deployed to Kabul as Senior Civilian Representative. The timing of the length of his stay is not yet determined.

I've lots... well, let me stop there. Let me take any questions you might have on any issue.

Questions and answers

Q: (Inaudible)...the name.

Appathurai: Jochems. Sorry. J-O-C-H-E-M-S and first name M-A-U-R-I-T-S.

Q: (Inaudible)...

Appathurai: Maurits. Well, we'll start here and we'll go back of the room.

Q: James, Prime Minister of Kosovo, he recently stated that his government already coordinated the date of the proclaiming independence with EU and NATO. So that statement appeared before Mr. Thaci was coming to Brussels. Could you specify what kind of contact he had with Secretary General maybe, or maybe with NAC?

And the second question, could you specify a little bit agenda of meeting with Madam Tymoshenko of Secretary General? Thank you.

Appathurai: Well you won't be very satisfied with either of the answers I'm about to give you. The Secretary General has spoken more than once with Prime Minister Thaci in the past few months, including relatively recently. I am not aware, and certainly could not comment on any discussions on dates for a declaration of independence.

As to the agenda for the visit of Prime Minister Tymoshenko, again, I cannot comment on it. This meeting was just confirmed. So I just don't know. Sorry.

Q: James, est-ce que vous pouvez infirmer ou confirmer information que l'OTAN a proposé à la Russie d'organiser un sommet à Bucharest?

Appathurai: En fait, j'allais arriver à ça. Je vais le faire en anglais puis en français si tu veux.

Yes, I can confirm that the Secretary General in his capacity as Chair of the NATO-Russia Council has written to the Russian Federation suggesting that we hold a NATO-Russia Council in Bucharest at the level of Heads of State and government. The letter is addressed to President Putin and has been sent by the ambassador. And that's where we are.

C'est compris, en anglais aussi, excuse moi.

Q: Hum, pour revenir sur la question précédente, à quelle date la lettre est partie?

Appathurai: Excuse-moi, excuse moi.

Q: La lettre à M. Poutine est déjà partie, va partir?

ppathurai: Elle est déjà partie. Je ne peux pas te dire la date... Mais je peux dire que la lettre a été reçue déjà à Moscou.

Q: D'accord. Cette lettre, pour des raisons techniques, passe par l'ambassadeur actuel...

Appathurai: Exactement.

Q: D'accord. Sauf qu'il n'y a plus d'ambassadeur actuellement.

Appathurai: Ce n'est pas passé par M. Rogozine parce qu'il n'est... il n'a pas encore présenté ses "credentials" comme on dit. Alors, je pense que c'est passé par l'ambassadeur précédent ou son adjoint, je ne sais pas, mais par l'ambassade disons, par l'ambassade russe.

Q: Okay, now I would like to go back to Greece.

Appathurai: Yes.

Q: And Macedonia.

Appathurai: Yes.

Q: Or FYROM. I just want to understand something. Of course NATO is not involved in the process of discussions that UN is leading, or sponsoring, with Mr. Nimitz on the question of... on the issue of the name of Macedonia or whatever. But the result of those discussions might have some consequences on discussions before and during Bucharest Summit.

Do you agree with that, and do you admit that, in fact, Greece has all the power to veto in spite of all the noises about pressures that one big Ally could exert in essence out of patience, because after all it has been 17 years, 17, 1-7, that it has been going on, and we don't see how it could be sorted out.

Except if we have, again, a Greek footnote a bit, a new footnote, meaning everybody understands that Macedonia is Macedonia, except Greece, that in every situation would do the contrary, the reverse of what Turkey is doing now. That is to say, we do not recognize Macedonia per se.

In other words, the question is, do you think that in the current structure of NATO Greece has a veto right institutionally, or can it be overcome in spite of the consensus, a bit that is in the NATO tradition?

Appathurai: Thank you. To answer the second question first, consensus is neither a habit nor a tradition, but it is indeed the modus operandi of the Alliance. So any decision, and certainly any decision on enlargement would require the agreement of all of the NATO members.

You've heard the Secretary General, but the policy for NATO... our approach is very clear. NATO, as you have said, is not in the lead when it comes to the negotiations on the name issue. That is for Ambassador Nimitz and the United Nations, and we do not want, as an Alliance, to get involved in those discussions. That'll certainly be complicating and unnecessary.

The discussions that are taking place now seem to be taking place in a positive spirit, in a spirit of compromise, and Ambassador Nimitz' latest comments on the talks were, I think, rather encouraging.

So... can it have an effect on the enlargement process in NATO? There is no denying that it can have an effect, but we hope and believe that there can be progress in these talks. We are pursuing, as NATO, our track. Our track is to assist in reforms, and to prepare the ground for possible decisions within NATO. And that's, I think, all I can say on that subject.

Q: I just wondered if you could elaborate on the invitation to President Putin, what the purpose is. Did he spell out an agenda of the topics he'd like to see discussed there?

Appathurai: Yes, at Bucharest, according to current planning, we will have a whole host of formats. We'll have a NATO format alone for the 26 NATO members. We will have a very broad, and I think a very important discussion in what we call in our lovely jargon NAC Plus N, in other words, a broad Afghanistan-related mission, which will bring together representatives from the United Nations, from the European Union, from the World Bank, from the G8. I believe non-military contributors, but significant financial contributors, like Japan. Of course the non-NATO participants in the ISAF meeting. Also President Karzai, I believe, will be there.

So that will be quite a broad meeting. There will be a meeting of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, which brings together all of NATO's member states and all of NATO's partners. Partners being the Euro-Atlantic partners. And one of those Euro-Atlantic partners, by the way, is the Russian Federation.

So in that context alone President Putin will have received an invitation to come to Bucharest.

And then, of course, there will be a meeting of the NATO, where I believe there will be, I'm not a hundred percent sure now, but a NATO-Ukraine Commission meeting. I'll be surprised if there weren't anyway.

But in that context the NATO Allies and the Secretary General also felt that it was appropriate, considering the importance of our relationship with the Russian Federation and the very broad range of issues, A, on which we cooperate, B, on which we could cooperate further, and C, on which we could certainly have discussions to clear the air, that it made sense to have a NATO-Russia Council meeting at the level of Heads of State and Government.

There has not been one until now. (Cell Phone Buzzes.) That's probably my Deputy correcting me right now. Oh yes, there will be a NUC in Bucharest, I was right. Thank you, Carmen.

So all this to say, because there's a lot to discuss, and because frankly, we're meeting in so many important formats, this was an important format that couldn't be, to our mind, ignored, and therefore the invitation was sent to President Putin.

As I said, there has never been one at this level before, but it is up to President Putin and the Russian Federation to decide whether or not they wish there to be one, but the other 26 members of the NATO-Russia Council believe that there would be added value in having this meeting.

Q: James, two questions please. A senior panel in Canada says that it should not stay in Afghanistan next year until it gets more troops and more equipment. If you have a reaction on that? And I am also wondering what will be discussed in Lithuania, the beginning of February? Thanks.

Appathurai: Thank you. On the Manley panel, the Secretary General met with the panel led by the former Deputy Prime Minister John Manley. He met with them for quite some time in Kabul itself in NATO Headquarters. They had a long discussion of the various issues and I can tell you the Secretary General was very impressed with them and their questions when he met with them. He has, and we have all seen and read the report, which came out yesterday.

But, before I go further, you know, of course, that the report is from an independent panel, making recommendations. The government has not taken a position. The Parliament has not taken a position on these recommendations. So NATO will certainly not take a position at this time.

What I can say is that the report, and this is my own personal view, but I think it is shared by everyone in NATO, it is very thorough. It is very well-written, but beyond that, we will not be making comments on the report at this time.

Lithuania. We will have a whole host of meetings in Lithuania, almost every format again. But I think there are a few issues that stand out.

This is a Defence Ministers' meeting and it is an informal meeting, as we call it, so there are no concrete decisions to be taken. It is... it should be seen as part of a three-meeting package. In other words, this meeting of Defence Ministers, a meeting of Foreign Ministers at the beginning of March here in Brussels, all of which are leading up to decisions to be taken in Bucharest at the Summit.

This is the meeting of Defence Ministers, so they will focus, obviously on defence issues. But you will have the context of Kosovo and I would be surprised if Kosovo were not a subject of discussion.

We will certainly have a discussion on Afghanistan. And the discussion will, I think, focus on two main areas. One will be the capabilities that we need to have in place. We are still short some 19 Operational Mentoring and Liaison Teams. In other words, embedded training teams. And that shortfall will grow unless more offers are made. So while we have a good number, and hang on, I'll tell you exactly how many we have... We have 33 fielded and that number will grow throughout 2008 to about 47, according to what we have in terms of current commitments. We will... we are short. We will still be short by the end of 2008.

So there will have to be a bigger push on providing Mentoring and Liaison Teams. The U.S. offer of 3,200 marines has certainly helped to meet some of the shortfall, at least for a limited period in maneuver capability. But we still need, beyond that, more maneuver capability. We also need some rotary wing and fixed wing helicopters and airplanes to be provided.

So there will be a discussion of this, I am quite sure. Secondly, flowing from the tasking at the last ministerial, the Ministers will want to have an initial discussion on the political military approach in Afghanistan, start to look at how we can take forward the operation in 2008, and beyond. Not, again, for a decision, but for an initial discussion of what issues they want to raise. That discussion will be picked up again by Foreign Ministers and then again, I'm quite sure, in Bucharest as well.

They will want to look at capability initiatives. Stop me when your eyes start to glaze over. Capability initiatives when it comes to things like helicopters, seeing if we can find better ways to procure them or make them available.

We will have a meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission at Defence Ministers' level. We will have a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council at Defence Ministers' and we will have an ISAF format meeting as well. In other words, with the non-NATO contributors to the ISAF mission, where obviously they will have their own discussion, or we will have a broader discussion of the operation.

Does that sort of answer your question?

Q: (Inaudible).

Appathurai: Yeah, you're... I killed you with that, didn't I?


Appathurai: Sorry. Oh sorry, it was... well, okay, you don't mind.

Q: Yes, James, two questions. The first one is President Bush nominated a new commander for ISAF. Does it mean that COMISAF will always now be an American first? And second, is it correct that NATO is going to launch a second air policing operation in Iceland?

Appathurai: To answer your second... well, let me start with COMISAF.

Is it a formal decision that it will always be an American commander? I'm not aware of a formal decision in that regard. But the U.S. is by far the largest troop contributor to the ISAF mission. It is also, even more so, the largest contributor of international forces in Afghanistan. So coming from a Defence Department I can tell you there is a logic to that. So it is no surprise to us that the U.S. has proposed another commander, and by the way, one that is very, very well respected throughout the NATO community.

In terms of air policing in Iceland, I don't really know what the latest is, I'll be very frank, on what's going on with air policing. So let me check on this and we'll get back to you later, but I just don't know the answer.


Q: I just wanted to check where we stood with the infamous CJSOR on Afghanistan. I remember, you know, 2006 I think James Jones kind of issued an estimate that it was 80 to 85 percent full and that was when I think ISAF was about the strength of something over 30,000.

Appathurai: Yes.

Q: They're now up to about 42,000 and if I'm not mistaken the Secretary General said last week or the week before last, it was above 90 percent. You've got the marines coming in now, the bulk of which will go into ISAF. So does that mean now that CJSOR is, you know, 96, 97 percent? What is the... is there a realistic, meaningful figure one can put on that? And how do you kind of account for the... I don't know, the shift upwards, the fact that... it gives the impression of being a moveable feast, or like that.

The second point was just on Kosovo and this question of dates. The Kosovars are saying they have coordinated this decision on the date with agencies such as NATO. You're saying you're not aware of any discussion on the dates. Is that because the Secretary General hasn't told you or is there another kind of explanation for the apparent contradiction?

Appathurai: There's every possibility the Secretary General hasn't told me. But that doesn't usually happen. The only thing I can say is I am not aware...

(Cell Phones Going Off)


Appathurai: Is something happening in the world? Ah...

I am not aware of the discussion or certainly of an agreement on dates in the NATO context.

On the CJSOR, the military does not like, for professional reasons, to attach figures or percentages to how well you're doing in meeting the CJSOR and their logic, I must say, is quite strong. And that is it's not about numbers, it's about capabilities. If you're short a critical capability that only requires 200 people to execute, but is absolutely essential for the mission, what's the percentage that you have and that you don't have?

So they are generally very, very reluctant to... and I say for understandable reasons, to put a figure to this.

The Secretary General has said over 90 percent. That's a figure, of course, he has gotten from our military commanders. He doesn't just pull that out of the air. The marine deployment, the United States has been very explicit in saying that this is a temporary deployment. Yes, it does go into the CJSOR. It doesn't, by the way, meet all the requirements that we have, but that it is for a very limited period of time, seven or eight months, I think. And then it will be withdrawn.

So does it bring us closer to the 100 percent? Yes, I suppose it does. But I outlined, I think, in quite a bit of detail where we are still quite short. Well, quite short. That's strong. Where we are short. We're short on OMLTs, on maneuver capability, and on rotary wing and I think another PRT or two would be very welcome.

So we will still keep working towards meeting this.

Has the bar moved up? I think the answer is yes. There is, as you know, a regular review of the statement of requirements by the military. In my time in this job that number has grown. Not substantially, but it has grown. They have identified, and in particular the requirement which I just mentioned, I believe, which is maneuver capability, additional maneuver capability, which COMISAF has publicly said he would prefer to see in the south and in the east.

So there is no secret that we have raised the bar. But I have to say it is also true that the fill rate has also increased substantially. We have gone from what was 6,000 troops two years ago or two and a half years ago, to, as you say, 42,000 troops. Well over at this point 90 percent of what the overall requirement is. Eight countries, no ten, have in the past few months identified increases to their force levels in Afghanistan, much of that to the south, the Poles being the obvious one, but I have a long list back at the headquarters which I think the Sec Gen shared with you at the press reception anyway.

So many, many countries are increasing... many countries are increasing their contributions, the U.S. being the biggest one. So yes... has the bar gone up? Yes, but so has our ability to meet that requirement.

Q: The shortage in terms of maneuver capability, is that then still the one battalion in the south that was mentioned all those months ago or is it two battalions or... ?

Appathurai: Well there's... I'm not at particular liberty to give to you exact details. The U.S. contribution goes a long, long way to meeting that requirement. When the U.S. contribution is withdrawn that requirement will once again be there. But for the moment, the U.S. has certainly helped to meet the shortfall in maneuver capability significantly.

Q: The fact of this increasing of forces to 42,000 and probably increasing, the Taliban look as if they are able to attack very effectively at least in terms of propaganda. Like for example the other day in Kabul attacking something that in theory was impenetrable, the hotel in Kabul, and in a very effective commando-type operation. People say what is going on, what's happening?

Appathurai: Well I think you used the key word and that is propaganda. I'm not saying that it's not effective, because it is, but I do think that it's important for us to differentiate between targets of military or political significance and targets of propaganda significance. The Taleban cannot mass against Afghan or NATO Forces. They have tried that - Operation Medusa - they were defeated. They cannot hold territory against Afghan or NATO Forces - Musa Qala a clear example. They had months to prepare for an assault by the Afghans. They did prepare for it; dug trenches, laid mines, set-up ambushes. In two days they were pushed out of Musa Qala.

So the lesson to us from a NATO perspective is certainly they do not have the capability to hold territory or to mass forces against the Afghan forces and our forces. What they can do and what they do very effectively is resort to these kinds of asymmetric attacks - roadside bombs, suicide bombs - which have of course gone up quite significantly in number and the Serena Hotel attack was an effective strike at confidence. The confidence of certainly the international community representatives in Kabul who had seen the Serena as a bit of an oasis.

This team of three or four rebels... and what I understand is it is not necessarily Taleban. This is not yet clear. So let's be cautious about ascribing this to the Taleban. They have claimed credit for it. It is not necessarily them. And you will understand that I can't go into any more detail. But yes, they are successful at it to the extent that we confuse propaganda effectiveness as political or military effectiveness and those are not the same things.

Q: But in this crucial question of gaining the hearts and minds of the civilians, the countries of ISAF, the people of Spain, Italy, Germany, the United States, when they see these kinds of operations they think that things are not going rightly. And of course that undermines the military effort and it's more difficult to send soldiers because people are fearing that something is going to happen. So even though you are right when you say that they are not technically capable or logistically capable of making it hard to the soldiers, in fact they are undermining the whole operation,  the people.

Appathurai: And you have successfully analyzed the strategy of the Taleban or whoever it is that was behind attacks like this and it's my job and I think frankly it's our job collectively to resist falling into this trap. We have to explain to our population - I have to explain to our populations and the Secretary General - yes, it looks bad and yes it's frightening for the international officials who are there and it's a tragedy for the people who are caught up in it, not least the Norwegian Foreign Minster and the journalist with him who lost his life, as well as the locals, the Afghans who were working there who also lost their lives. Let there be no doubt about that.

But we have to explain that it doesn't mean that the Taleban can take a political target, because they can't. It doesn't mean that they can take a military target, because they can't. And it doesn't mean they can hold territory, because they can't. They can do this, but we must be complicit in this in a sense. We must resist falling into this trap because this is their strategy, but we can resist this strategy by reminding ourselves what they can and cannot do.

Q: A change of subject. Could you give us a quick update on what is the status of the C-17 program or do you know?

Appathurai: I don't know. I have to check. I’m sorry. I have not seen any status update in months. That doesn't mean that there isn't one, but not one that has crossed my desk. So I'll check on it.

Q: According with the Spanish television, the Russian Navy has announced maneuvers with real fire not far from the Spanish coast. Is NATO able to make any comment?

Appathurai: We are aware and have been aware from the beginning of this exercise, and as the Russian Federation themselves announces, our aircraft has escorted Russian aircraft to the site of the exercise. Beyond that, I don't really know what to say. I understand that it does not contravene any international laws... this exercise. That's all I think I have to say on that.

Q: (Inaudible)...

Appathurai: No, no. Countries hold military exercises. The Russian Federation is holding a military exercise. It's true that they have not held an exercise of this size in this area for I don't know how long and that I think is part of a larger pattern of Russian... the extension of Russian military capability both in the air and at sea that we have not seen for quite some period. But as I say, we are aware, we have been aware, it does not break (as far as I know) any international laws and the Russian Federation is not the only country that holds military exercises.

Q: One other question, different subject. I didn't hear you mention that Russia and NATO would be discussing CFE. Are they going to?

Appathurai: I don't  know. I wouldn't be surprised if we didn't, but it's not formally on the agenda, but it comes up every time.

Q: (Inaudible)... subject. Four months ago the world was falling apart I remember because Russia was not signing the CFE and now you're not sure whether it's going to figure now on the agenda now or not.

Appathurai: You mean in Vilnius. It might well come up. I would be surprised if it didn't come up, but we'll let you know in Vilnius. I hope you're coming.

And this will be the last one please.

Q: Yes, I just would like to come back to this question of Commander in Afghanistan. Some time it was rumours and I give you a good help by saying rumours. I know now your answer. But nevertheless, it is not purely coincidental if there are rumours about a change at SACEUR post talking about this, of anti-insurgency assaults with General David Petraeus on one side replacing the very freshly designated new SACEUR in Mons and on the other, the General in Chief of ISAF, an American officer, being changed more or less in the same period.

Does it mean that the U.S. or NATO recognize a failure in military tactics or strategy? Does it mean that what Mr. Gates said about the problem with counter-insurgency in theory and in practice has effectively to be translated into change at the top military level? What can you say about that?

Appathurai: I think we need to be careful not to connect things that are unconnected. First, the U.S, as far as I know, made no decision on where General Petraeus' next deployment will be, nor on the name of a new Supreme Allied Commander, nor indeed on the date of replacement of a new Supreme Allied Commander for the Supreme Allied Command. So no decisions have been taken on any of these issues and I don't know if and when they will.

Second, within NATO and I'm quite sure within the United States, there is every confidence in what Dan McNeill has done and is doing, and in what General Craddock has done and is doing. So let there be no doubt about that.

I might add finally that the Secretary General has met with General Petraeus and also like everyone else I think considers him to be an absolutely first class military officer. But no decisions have been taken by anyone on anything and I don't think we should jump to any conclusions in this context.

I'm sorry. You've got one more?

Q: I'm sorry (inaudible).... Just now it's arrived a message from Rome.

Appathurai: I hate those ones. Yeah?

Q: Sorry?

Appathurai: I hate those ones. Yes, go ahead?

Q: That says that two days ago Italy has sent 560 more Italian military to Kosovo. This is what the NATO spokesperson in Kosovo said right now.

Appathurai: Hmm. Well he didn't clear that with me first.

Q: Is there someone else...?

Appathurai: I can't confirm it, but let me say this. There is a regular rotation of reserves into and out of Kosovo. We had a German battalion that went in and spent some time in Kosovo and came out. I would be not at all surprised to know that another battalion had gone in for a certain period for what is basically familiarization to understand the territory. Second, to demonstrate capability that NATO can reinforce, did reinforce in March 2004 and can certainly do it again. We have a fully resourced set of reserves in place if necessary.

So if it has happened and I'm sure if the KFOR spokesman said it happened, it happened, it would not surprise me at all and it would be part of a regular normal system of rotation of battalions, reserve battalions, in and out of Kosovo.

Q: They said it's not a rotation.

Appathurai: Great.

Q: There are 560 more troops.

Appathurai: Another... sorry?

Q: They said those 560 are more (inaudible)...

Appathurai: Okay well I'm going to have to go check it out because while I enjoy this kind of exchange, I don't really... this is the Dutch equipment, high-tech...

UNIDENTIFIED: It looks really fancy.


Appathurai: I have no surprise. I'm not surprised.


  1. Turkey recognizes the Republic of Macedonia with its constitutional name.