From the event


7 Oct. 2008

Weekly press briefing

by NATO Spokesman James Appathurai

JAMES APPATHURAI (NATO Spokesman): Good afternoon.  If I sound distracted it's because Carmen just told me I'm losing 80% of my budget.  I feel a bit like Wachovia or most European Banks, yes.  (SPEAKERS OVERLAP)  No, for different reasons. 

Thank you all for coming.  Let me.  I know you have a busy day of briefings ahead.  So let me run, if I can through first the schedule and then the subjects of interest at the ministerial and then happy to discuss with you any issues of interest to you. 

The Secretary General will arrive on Thursday morning.  His meetings will begin on Thursday morning with meetings with the Minister of Defence, the Prime Minister and the President, of Hungary of course.  At 11:00, there will be a ceremony honouring Hungarian troops returning from ISAF with the Minister of Defence which will go till about 11:50. 

There will be NATO Ministers of Defence, Ministers of Defence from non-NATO ISAF countries, Permanent Representatives, our Chairman of the Military Committee, I believe some Chiefs of Defence. 

And of course, Ambassadors will be there, as well as a number of Hungarian dignitaries.  That remains to be confirmed by the Hungarian side.  There will be not only Hungarian soldiers but soldiers from other countries as well.  And this will be broadcast live from Heroes Square. 

The informal working lunch of NAC Ministers, of North Atlantic Council Ministers of Defence with, I might add, the invitees Croatian and Albanian Defence Ministers will be present at the meetings as they are, as officials from those countries are present at almost all NATO meetings.  This will be a restricted session working lunch on operations.  Commander ISAF will then brief... sorry not commander ISAF, excuse me, SACEUR will brief on ISAF's progress.  There will be discussion of implementation of the comprehensive strategic political military plan.  You'll remember that was agreed in Bucharest.  They will discuss meeting the full joint statement of requirements, in other words, all of the capability requirements for ISAF.  That will include trainers which will be very relevant to the second part of the discussion.  And that is how to support the enhancement in the size of the Afghan National Army. 

As you know, the...  what's called the Joint Control and Monitoring Board, but the relevant body has agreed to the Afghan government recommendation to grow its armed forces to 122/134 thousand.  That will require financial support from the international community.  It will require equipment support from the international community.  And it will require trainers from the international community. 

We, already, as you know, have a shortfall in meeting our requirement, the requirement for what we call Operational Mentor and Liaison Teams, embedded training teams for the current Afghan National Army. That requirement will only grow and we will...  or Ministers will discuss... support that. 

That being said, I think there is a clear understanding, and that was reflected again in London, that the ultimate solution for Afghanistan is of course to be able to stand on its own feet, and that investment in the development of the Afghan National Army as well as in the Afghan National Police is absolutely essential to helping us reach that next phase in the international engagement there.  So I'm quite sure this will be met with a positive spirit. 

They will wish to discuss support, ISAF support for the voter registration and electoral processes.  I can tell you that NATO has already begun to provide support for the voter registration process which will began yesterday. 

They will finally wish to discuss as well the whole ISAF's counter-narcotics mandate.  There is no secret, I think, anymore, if there ever was a secret, that there is a live discussion within NATO as to what more NATO might be able to do in support of Afghan-led counter-narcotics efforts.  And that will be discussed first at the lunch and then starting at 16:00, all of these issues that I've mentioned:  the comprehensive political military plan; meeting the shortfalls in the Statement of Requirements; support for the voter registration and electoral processes and counter-narcotics. 

All these issues will be discussed in the format of an ISAF meeting, in other words with the ISAF troop contributing nations.  Defence Minister Wardak from Afghanistan will also participate.  Kai Eide, the head of UNAMA, the UN mission in Afghanistan will be present.  And the European Union will also have representation there as well. The Secretary General will give a press conference at 18:40. 

The next event will be...  The next morning, there will be another meeting at 26... sorry 28 now...26 NATO nations plus the two invitees to focus on defence transformation.  And very clearly, flowing from the London discussions which were very fruitful in terms of putting the issues very clearly on the table for discussion, they will wish to discuss the deployability and sustainability of NATO forces.  In other words, what percentage of our forces can be moved outside of our individual countries, what percentage of them can be sustained in the field? 

There will certainly be discussion about potentially raising the targets.  I might add that there has been quite some success over the past number of years in reaching the 40% sustainable... sorry 40% deployable, 8% sustainable targets.  And there will be discussion, I believe, even in surpassing those targets in London. 

Part of being more deployable is of course having the capabilities to deploy.  As you know, I'm sure, you listened with great attention last Wednesday when we discussed the Strategic Airlift Capability initiative.  But we will be going forward... they have gone forward, last week, the 12 SAC nations concluded signature of the memorandum of understanding, brought into force the Charter of the NATO Airlift Management Organisation which is a key step in moving forward to acquire the three C-17s that are planned to be acquired by next summer.

But one area where we are not making as much progress is on helicopters, mission-deployable helicopters, key enablers.  The Alliance has been exploring and continues to explore ways to improve the deployability of what is actually a large fleet of helicopters within this Alliance to make them available for operations outside of the NATO area, including of course within NATO, but also supporting initiatives like the Anglo-French initiative recently to find the funds to... or to gather funds... to upgrade existing helicopters for non-European theatres.  That will also be discussed there.

Final meeting at 12:00 will be the meeting of the first ever meeting of the NATO-Georgia Commission.  Second?  Oh yes, the first was in Georgia of course.  Sorry, the first ministerial meeting.  But you're right.  Second meeting, the first ministerial level meeting of the NATO-Georgia Commission.  Again, the 26 NATO Allies, Croatia, Albania and the Georgian Minister of Defence. 

As you know, the NATO-Georgia Commission was established in the aftermath of the events that took place in August.  It has a couple of aims.  One is of course very much to guide the support that Allies are giving to Georgia in coordinating Alliance assistance, sorry, to help coordinate Alliance assistance to Georgia in its recovery from the recent conflict, to support, as we've always done in the context of our partnership with them, the defence reform process to help them identify the requirements that they have for building their defence capabilities.  And of course to help support Georgia as it works to meet its EuroAtlantic aspirations to move closer to NATO. 

That is pretty much it in terms of the priorities of the meeting.  But I'm happy to take your questions on this or any other issue please...

Q:  Ahto Lobjakas, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.  I'd like to ask you about the reported letter written by General Craddock to 26 NATO Allies on the possibility of contingency planning for the Baltic countries.  How confident are you that General Craddock will get the required political authorization to proceed with this?  And will this issue be discussed at Budapest, thank you?

APPATHURAI:  I am not aware of this issue being on the agenda for Budapest.  That being said, any NATO ally or indeed SACEUR if he wishes to can put issues onto the agenda.  The bottom-line for NATO is this:  Collective defence has been NATO's core business for almost 60 years.  Implementing that commitment between Allies has involved routine planning, contingency plans, virtual exercises, real exercises and capability commitments.

There was a clear consensus in London again that a) it's NATO's core business; b) it will continue to be NATO's core business; and c) that if and when any decision is taken to implement that in whatever way it should be seen as business as usual for this alliance.  Neither unusual nor a threat to any other party.

I think you're next.

Q:  Yes, I'm not quite clear.  This is about General Craddock's request to the NAC.  Two things:  first, very briefly, is there any progress on the possibility  of the NRF being deployed to Afghanistan in the context of the elections?  Or is it just an ISAF supplementary force?  What's the difference there?  And second, as I understand it, he's been requesting from the NAC additional authority to go after drug laboratories and drug traffickers.  Myself, I'm not clear on the protocol there on why he needs approval from the NAC.  I understand it's not a revision of the Oplan.  Is this a courtesy, is there a procedure in place?  Again, what's the protocol?  Just for background.

APPATHURAI:  Thank you, in terms of the NRF to Afghanistan, I see that there's been some media discussion.  It's premature to discuss that now.  The request from ISAF for additional forces for electoral support has not yet made its way certainly to the NAC, nor to the Military Committee, nor as far as I understand even to SHAPE.  So we have not yet reached the point where there is a formal request from ISAF identifying exactly what they would need for electoral support.

Only when that would come, be recommended to the Military Committee by SHAPE, analyzed by the Military Committee and then recommended to the NAC, would we have a discussion on what forces would be provided.

Based on the experience of the last elections, I've absolutely no doubt that Allies will provide support at the appropriate time and in the appropriate way for the electoral process.  It's very important to this Alliance that the elections go forward on time and with the maximum possible security.  And I'm confident that COMISAF and NATO as a body intend to do their absolute utmost to make that happen. 

In terms of additional authorities, there is a discussion within NATO as to how much more can be done within the existing authorities, how much more can be done, how much more should be done within the existing authorities.  That is a discussion that will be had in Budapest. 

Why don't we go?   The next actually, please go ahead.

Q:  James, excuse my ignorance, but about this counter narcotic mandate what is it about?  Can you tell us something more about it?

APPATHURAI:  Sure.  It's not a counter-narcotics mandate per se.  But within the operational plan agreed by all 26, there are a variety of tasks assigned to NATO.  And of course, the tasks that are assigned with yes guidelines and direction but also limitations.  This is what you can do.  This is what you cannot do.  These are the limits.  As the military says, the left and right of arc.  And so the question is, what is the maximum permissible within the existing operational plan?  Would something else be required?  If so, would that fall into the existing operational... or would the operational plan have to be modified?  This is in essence the discussion.  The operational plan is modified or revised on a relatively regular basis.  So this would not be the first time.  It is a regular process and a totally normal discussion to have within Allies, within the Alliance.  Now, I think it is worth noting that, of course, this discussion has to be had with the Afghan authorities.  What do they want?  And that is something that will come up in... in Budapest where Defence Minister Wardak will be present.  And his views will be solicited.

I'll go to Paul and then I'll come back to you. 

It's all follow-up.  Please.

Q:  Three questions.  Quick ones though.  First one... Would you like to comment on the reported... reported comments by officials in the Sunday Times and the Canard Enchaîné at the weekend regarding Afghanistan?  Secondly, do you think the question of talking to the Taleban will be on the agenda in Budapest?  And thirdly, coming back to the Baltic States and procedures, what is the procedure that General Craddock has to go through in order to plan for the defence of the territory of NATO members in terms of getting approval from the Allies?

APPATHURAI:  Thank you.  On Afghanistan...  Oh yes, the comments by Brigadier Carleton Smith.  I think we don't need... we shouldn't overdramatize what the Brigadier said or was trying to say, maybe not in exactly the right words.  I think everybody agrees that there will have to be a political element to achieving the goals that the international community and the Afghan government want in Afghanistan.  There will have to be a reconstruction and redevelopment element to that.  There will have to be more progress in governance.  And of course, the military role is absolutely essential because the military is creating the space for the progress in these other areas.  So can there be an exclusively military solution to this?  No.  We have never suggested that there would be.  But the military is an essential part of creating that framework on which the other elements which are necessary to success will be built.  So as I say, I think it was perhaps an unfortunate use of words which was unfortunately used.  But the reality is this, we're all pretty much saying that success will have to be more than military. 

Talking to the Taleban is not just... is not, sorry, is not for NATO to take the lead on.  It is not certainly for NATO to comment on.  If the Afghan government chooses to engage in talks with the Taleban, that is their decision to take.  NATO has always said what I just said.  And that is, the solution cannot be exclusively military.  So if they choose to do this, we will... NATO will support them in it.

In terms of procedures, excuse me, for one second, while I consult with my colleagues.  Am I allowed to even talk about this.  Yes... it won't...  So on the record, I'm not going to talk about this.  I'm happy to talk to you off the record.  Thank you.  I felt a cold wind blowing from the left.


APPATHURAI:  It... It... Is there a question? 

Q:  Are we going to give them up?

APPATHURAI:  Thank you....  Well, the position... I'll give you the NATO position is to support the territorial integrity of Georgia.  Russia seems to be moving towards meeting their commitments to President Sarkozy and the agreements that they have made.  I think that's something that NATO would welcome if they are fully implemented.  The recognition of the two republics as independent, however, is in clear violation of the territorial integrity of Georgia, and something which the Allies do not accept.  Regardless of whether or not, the Russian reaction was correctly foreseen, it is the accepted (INAUDIBLE) of NATO and the European Union that force was disproportionate and that these Republics remain part of Georgia according to its internationally recognized borders.   

That being said, the relationship between NATO and Russia, and I can't speak for the European Union, is obviously an important one.  And we have not broken off all links with them.

I think you were next.  Then we will come back to you.  I have to have one question that I can't answer, so go...

Q:  So James, it's Phil Harper two... at least two questions.  You said about relations between NATO and Russia.  And you said about anti-drug mandate of the ISAF forces, so my question is still about the anti-drug training facility in Russia, Demodyedovo.  So as far as I know, it still doesn't work.  There is no recruits from Afghanistan to receive their training.  So my question is...  As far as I know, this project was not put to freeze.


Q: nor by NATO side, neither by Russia.  So what's going on?

APPATHURAI:  That's a good question.  I have to say I'll have to research it.  You're right that it has not been frozen on either side.  As to why if that's the case, there are absolutely no Afghans there that I don't know the answer to.  So we will have to check.  Excuse me, go ahead.  And we'll come back.

Q:  Hum, just wanted... if you could explain to us exactly what it would take to allow for resumption of the NATO-Russia Council meetings if the Russians do abide by the deadline and get all their troops out of Georgia proper by... Friday I suppose.  Is that enough to allow for resumption of those meetings?  Also on the Membership Action Plan possibilities for Georgia and Ukraine, do you expect any significant discussion on those issues that might give us an indication as to whether or nor that's going to be possible...

APPATHURAI:  In Budapest, you mean?

Q:  Yes.

APPATHURAI:  The answer to the first question, I think is relatively simple if not clear.  The Allies have said that there can be no business as usual until Russia implements the agreements that it has made, more than one.  It will be, of course, up to each and every individual ally to determine from their own point of view whether they believe that these... that these agreements have been implemented.  When they believe that then I think it will possible to move forward, beyond the "no business as usual” principle in which we find ourselves now, which includes at present the NATO-Russia Council not meeting at the level of ambassadors, though there is work below the level of ambassadors going on.  You're quite right that at present the NRC doesn't meet at the ambassadorial level. 

I do not see on the agenda, at NATO, an assessment... sorry at Budapest a discussion amongst the 26 or 28 about the MAP aspirations of the two countries, Georgia and Ukraine.  There will of course be a meeting of the NATO-Georgia Commission as I mentioned, and there there may well be a discussion of Georgia's aspirations to join NATO, and the progress it is making in terms of meeting NATO standards.  But I do not see on the agenda a discussion amongst the Allies about assessing their prospects. 

Yes, please.  Yes.

Q:  Just to be...  Well, I need to be a little bit clearer on this.  What agreements are we talking about?  If we’re talking about Russian respect for territorial integrity of Georgia, does that include them taking all their troops out of Abkhazia and South Ossetia saying that they don't recognize them any more?  And then we can have a meeting of ambassadors.  Or are we talking about them implementing the agreement, the deadline we have for October the 10th to get out of Georgia proper?

APPATHURAI:  My understanding is that the announcement by the NATO ministers about "no business as usual" was taken after the two agreements.  Is that right?  Both agreements... After the first one...  After the first one... Yes, after the August the 19th agreement.  But I think it does take into account also the subsequent early September agreement negotiated by President Sarkozy.  It will be a political decision as I say by the twenty-six to move away from the position that they have taken now and to restore, let's say, stronger relations if not necessarily business as usual but to restore relations beyond that.

Yes... You follow up.  Yes.

Q:  James, what would be the procedure to take decision to resume the NRC talks?

APPATHURAI:  In other words, well, the decision... (SPEAKERS OVERLAP)

Q:  When NRC should make the decision?  On what level should we take this decision?  Ministerial?  Ambassadors?

APPATHURAI:  The ambassadors have the full authority to take decisions in NATO.  So if they choose to take a decision, that's sufficient.  Yes, it doesn't require a ministerial meeting.  Please.

Q:  (INAUDIBLE)   I wanted to take up the extra-build up of soldiers of Russia in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, that was not contemplated in the deal between Sarkozy, and hence the Alliance is, in itself, not going to... not resume.  Although the Secretary General has said that he would not think it's going back to the status quo.  Would it impede the normalization of the relations between the Allies and Russia if they pull out by the 10th?

APPATHURAI:  It is obviously context for the discussions amongst Allies and context for the decisions which they would have to take on that issue.  But it will be up to them individually to decide exactly how they assess the situation, what decision they want to take on this issue.

Q:  Yes, just final technical follow-up.  I mean are they going to take... In Budapest will they at least take stock of the situation concerning the Russia-NATO Council?  I mean it's a day before the August 10th.  And am I right in assuming you need unanimity anyway on this one?

APPATHURAI:  Everything in NATO is decided by unanimity.  So that's a relatively simple procedure.  In other words, if you don't have all 26 on board, you don't have a change in policy.

I don't expect the NRC itself to be assessed in Budapest.  However, there will of course be a NATO-Georgia Commission meeting where the situation in Georgia will be discussed.  So the Allies will have an opportunity to exchange views on this subject as you say with the context of the deadline right next. 

Brooks, I made you wait a long time, sorry.

Q:  I think they meet the Commission in a Friday.

APPATHURAI:  It's a Friday, you're right, so it's the same day.

Q:  Change of subject, to the helicopter initiative...? If Carmen approves.  There are some cracks opening up on this thing.  The Franco-British initiative it's all about money.  They're not going to pay for all those mil helicopters across Eastern Europe. Their industries are lobbying against it because they want it to go to their own manufacturers and their own models.  So what about the SIP?  I mean isn't this the crux of the debate?  To what extent do you use the SIP actually to start paying for upgrades?  Is it going to come... is it going to come to that crunch or not?  And if not, then where does the Alliance go to move this forward?

APPATHURAI:  The international staff in NATO has, I'm told, a number of ideas of ways in which to address precisely the challenge that you raise and that is in essence marrying the money with the machine.  We have thousands of helicopters who are designed for a particular kind of mission which is... and a particular kind of environment which are, of course, not always relevant for the missions on which they are sent today. 

And what does that mean?  It means updating avionics.  It means re-engining in some cases to be able to lift in very hot and thin air.  It means building in protections against sand, extreme heat.  All of this costs money.  We have a lot of helicopters in the NATO fleet.  But not all the nations that have the helicopters can afford to upgrade them.  So in Budapest, the Allies will discuss not just the Anglo-French initiative which is to create, in essence, a trust fund into which money can be put to, assigned then to the upgrade and retrofitting of existing air frames and... but other ideas.  Other ideas which I do have but cannot go into detail about.

(INAUDIBLE)  Pascal, avec la patience de sphinx que tu as.

Q: ... de penser obligatoire.  (INAUDIBLE) Pour revenir sur la question posée par Paul tout à l'heure.


Q: Quant à (INAUDIBLE), d'après une information provenant de Washington, il semblerait qu'il manque à l'OTAN des plans d'urgence...


APPATHURAI:  Ah yes, that's fair enough.

Q: Oui, d'après les informations de Washington, il semblerait qu'il manque à l'OTAN déjà des "contingency plans" pour certains pays.  Est-ce que tu peux me confirmer qu'actuellement la situation c'est que l'OTAN n'a pas les mêmes plans pour défendre la Sicile et disons la Lettonie au hasard?  Est-ce que si c'est le cas, ceci va être discuté à Budapest?   

La deuxième question, c'est à propos de la Géorgie.  Puisqu'il va y avoir une réunion de la Commission OTAN-Géorgie, est-ce qu'on va discuter concrètement non pas de l'aide militaire, parce que tu me vas me dire qu'il n'y aura pas d'aide militaire, mais du soutien qu'on peut apporter à la Géorgie pour reconstruire son armée.  Et est-ce que les questions précises et les demandes précises de la Géorgie seront satisfaites à Budapest, si tu les connais?

APPATHURAI:  Merci, je ne peux pas dans la politique de l'OTAN discuter des plans...  comment est-ce qu'on dit "contingency plans"?

Q:  ... Plans d'urgence.

APPATHURAI:  Des plans d'urgence, hum, des plans d'urgence spécifiques.  Ce que je peux dire, c'est que l'OTAN a un système extrêmement robuste et flexible depuis 59 ans avec des centaines de "planners" si c'est le bon mot à SHAPE et ailleurs pour, dans n'importe quelle situation, développer des plans nécessaires pour la défense de cette alliance.  Et personne ne devrait le douter.  Je les ai vus.  Ils sont très, très efficaces.  Il y a une chose que l'OTAN fait très, très bien.  Il y en a plusieurs.  Mais la planification, ça c'est bien dans la liste. 

Est-ce que ça sera discuté à Budapest?  Ce n'est pas sur l'agenda.  Si quelqu'un, un ministre ou autre aimerait le discuter, évidemment, ils ont toute la liberté de le faire. 

Oui, je présume que dans... au Conseil OTAN-Géorgie, ils vont discuter le développement des forces armées géorgiens (sic)... géorgiennes dans le contexte où on se trouve aujourd'hui. 

L'OTAN, depuis que notre partenariat a été établi, a donné un soutien à la Géorgie comme avec tous nos partenaires dans le développement de leur capacité de défense.  Évidemment, le contexte en Géorgie, c'est qu'il y a eu une destruction assez impressionnante de leur capacité militaire.  Alors, ils commencent avec une certaine base.  Mais l'OTAN leur donnerait un soutien pas en tant qu'équipement, armes.  L'OTAN donne un soutien de conseils.  Alors, l'OTAN a déjà envoyé, va continuer d'envoyer des experts pour leur soutenir en développant leurs priorités.  Mais ce n'est pas l'OTAN qui va livrer des armes.  Ça, c'est clair.


Q:  (INAUDIBLE) Given the current serious financial market crisis, do you think there will be any kind of discussion on its ramification to the defence planning or others which might be a burden to each member countries.

APPATHURAI:  ...Lift the burden for which...?

Q:  Each member countries.

APPATHURAI:  I think the basic point is this.  And you heard the same thing out of Deauville I think from Minister Morin.  The pressure on national budgets will only grow, I think, as a result of the current financial crisis.  That's quite clear.  Which means finding efficiencies across government spending will become ever more important.  Our populations will demand the maximum efficiency in the way in which we spend our money.  And that will mean for defence ministers a clear requirement to look for better ways to spend.

And that means, amongst other things, collaborative projects such as the C-17, such as air-to-ground surveillance.  It will mean finding ways to cooperate on procurement, to... to do less of what we have seen in the past and that is to have national industries, industrial benefits for national purposes.  And my own country is not immune from this either.  I'm not pointing fingers at anyone.  But which tend to lead towards inefficiencies.  So I hope we will see, within the European context, within the NATO context, or I expect to see... let me put it that way.  I expect to see... I think we expect to see greater efforts to find greater efficiencies through cooperation in terms of procurement and capability projects.

Q:  And James, reportedly, the situation in Pakistan, especially at the border with Afghanistan is becoming worse.  So you think those defence ministers are going to talk about situation there?  And what about your scenario about the situation in Pakistan, especially on security issues?  Thank you.

APPATHURAI:  Thank you for the question.  You're right that the situation in the tribal areas, North-West Frontier Province, Fata is very complicated now.  The army is very heavily engaged in Bajaur.  It is a question of refugees in different directions, mutual support going across the border in both directions.  Very, very complicated.

The Secretary General had a very good meeting with the Foreign Minister of Pakistan in New York where the Foreign Minister made it very clear that he shares our view and we share his view that Pakistan faces the same threat that Afghanistan faces from extremism.  That we need to work together to try to tackle it.  NATO is willing to provide, of course, the support, whatever support we can, according to the priorities of the Pakistanis.  The Secretary General and the Foreign Minister discussed for example providing training at NATO's schools for Pakistani officers.  An offer which seemed to meet with some support.  We will strengthen our political relationship with them.  We will enhance to the extent possible our practical military to military cooperation, of course, very closely with the Afghans who have the lead there.  To the extent that Pakistan and Afghanistan and NATO and the Coalition can cooperate to tackle what is not just a border issue but is an extremism issue on either side of the border, and that is very important to note, we will have greater success in building stability in both countries.  So I think you will see... It's a final point...  You will see stepped up military to military cooperation.  You will see stepped up political engagement by NATO with Pakistan.  All parties want that.

It's a question now of defining how we go forward.  Will it come up in Budapest?  It may well.  We will see.



APPATHURAI:  It's okay.  I'll translate... or I'll say it into the microphone.  One is:  "Will the pressure on defence budgets affect support for Afghanistan, the growing Afghan army?"  And second:  "What about the drugs question and the counter-narcotics efforts by Afghanistan?"

First, the United States, I think, has quite publicly said in the last couple of days that they will be looking to Allies and to Japan, I believe, to provide some of the money that will be necessary for supporting the growth of the Afghan National Army.  Since that was raised also by Secretary Gates in London, I would be unsurprised if it were to come up again here.

I think the assessment in this building is that supporting the Afghan Army's development is a pretty cost-effective way of addressing the security challenges in Afghanistan.  It is certainly the long-term or a long-term element of moving towards a transition phase.  So in general, I think you'll hear NATO supporting the idea of greater support for the Afghan National Army.  I can tell you:  I have heard not one word about any implications for NATO's operations because of the financial crisis.  Do we have the money we need to do the operations?  We do.  But I think we will want to spend better the money that we spend on transformation.  That is in essence the context in which we find ourselves. 

We did discuss, indeed, the counter-narcotics effort.  In essence, General Craddock will put to Allies as he has done before his proposal that we look again at the authorities that ISAF has not to do eradication.  Let's be very clear, but to do interdiction, go after the labs, go after the traffickers, go after the precursors, the chemicals that are required to process the opium.  That will be discussed I believe in Budapest.



APPATHURAI:  We... we never have consensus in NATO until we have consensus.  So let's wait and see how the discussion goes.


APPATHURAI:  The situation in Afghanistan, as you all know, is that it's not a one size fit all model.  Different parts of the country require different approaches.  The PRTs for example are very different in different regions.  Some much more military; some less military.  So, of course, there's always flexibility within Afghanistan and within NATO to apply the appropriate solution in the appropriate place.  But beyond that let's... let's wait and see how the discussion goes.  Because I really don't know how it will go.

Q:  Finally, it's not a follow-up.  So we are speaking a lot about the situation in Georgia, I would like you to comment the current rise of tensions in the area around South Ossetia and Abkhazia.  There is numerous acts of terrorism there.  I don't know how we should have called them.  So I can remember the information about one Abkhazian border guard killed by a sniper shot from Georgian territory.  The same situation, one worker... working in a construction site in South Ossetia killed with a sniper shot.  No one knows from where it came from.  And there is another report that there was an explosion near Russian military column which was... sorry... which has OSCE monitor team with them.

APPATHURAI:  I have seen those reports.  I've also seen reports of South Ossetian gangs rampaging through towns and ethnically cleansing them of ethnic Georgians, almost total absence of observers inside these regions makes it impossible to verify what exactly is happening.  So I would say.  First point, it is very difficult to ascertain what really happened.  Second, the presence of observers throughout South Ossetia and Abkhazia would go a long way to helping clarify what is happening on the ground.  But we are not there apparently yet.

Q:    (INAUDIBLE) On the counter narcotics issue, you talked about counter-narcotics mandate, do you mean that you have to...  the mandate is already there, we have to seek a mandate from the UN say, or it's simply a matter between NATO and Afghanistan.  Secondly, can you briefly tell us about how bad the situation is in terms of narcotics in Afghanistan?  Thank you.

APPATHURAI:  Thanks.  NATO has a mandate from the UN Security Council.  It's very clear.  You also heard Antonio Maria Costa, the head of UNODC sit right here and call indeed for NATO to do more, precisely what General Craddock would like to see done.  So I don't think there is any issue with the United Nations.  When we talk about mandate it's within NATO's operational plan and what mandate in essence does NATO allocate itself.  Do the 26 Allies assign to NATO to do what it needs to be done?  Nothing will be done in Afghanistan in opposition to what the Afghan government wants.  That is the most basic principle that we have.  And if they make their view known on this issue, then it will be very significantly taken into account.

The...  The drug, the situation on the ground when it comes to drugs.  Let me quote Antonio Maria Costa:  Production is down.  The amount of the country that has opium growing... sorry cultivation... cultivation is down by 20%.  The number of poppy-free provinces has grown even in the last few years to now 16 of the 34 provinces is that right?  Eighteen of the... that's right, 18 of the 34 provinces are now poppy free.  Four or five are on the verge of being poppy free.  So there is really quite significant progress in terms of stemming the cultivation of poppy.

Now, there are significant stockpiles that still remain.  The Taleban, in particular in the South, in particular in Helmand is acting like any mafia protecting the industry, taking its percentage and using it to fund the insurgency. 

So there is a lethal nexus of insurgency and poppy in the South, which is of great concern of course to the allies. So, this problem is certainly not going away and it is of direct relevance to us of course because 98% of the heroin in Europe's schools and back alleys comes from there. 

And by the way, the countries in between are also a victim of it.  As you know, Iran for example suffers from a terrible addiction problem which is only growing.  So we all have an interest in solving this.  There is progress.  I have seen very encouraging remarks by the governor of Helmand just in the last couple of days, very forward leaning on trying to address the cultivation at the beginning which is now to prevent planting, rather than moving to eradication later next year, which is of course more politically and socially difficult. 

Ah, ah le coup de grâce.

Q:  Yes, another couple of questions.  Is there any discussion in NATO or are you expecting any discussion in Budapest on this talk coming out of the United States about a surge or whatever else they're calling it of troops?  And secondly, what is your feeling...?  Apparently, Iceland has accepted a rather substantial bailout plan from Russia to save its economy?   Is there any NATO opinion on that?

APPATHURAI:  (LAUGHTER)  To answer the second question first, I haven't heard of it.  And you won't be surprised that I don't know anything about it and wouldn't comment on it. 

Surge of troops.  General McKiernan has asked, I think, quite publicly for a significant number of troops to be added to his capability.  NATO within the Statement of Requirements has also been looking at providing in particular trainers, helicopters and some more combat capability.  So will there more forces added to ISAF?  I think the answer is probably yes. 

Again, ISAF has grown.  It is now at I think 51,500 if that's the latest number.  50,700 I have the fact checkers here.  50,700 from 45,000 just a few months ago.  I think in Budapest... Bucharest it was 45,000; it's now 50,700. So there is a slow but steady increase in the size of ISAF.  There is also a slow and steady increase in the size of the ANA, which is, I think, just as important.  The ANA now participates in 70% of the operations which ISAF carries out.  It leads 60% of the operations which ISAF carries out.  I think the numbers are even higher for the coalition.  So I think it's 100% in RC East of their operations.  So all this to say the troop numbers are growing.  They will probably continue to grow, both international and Afghan.

But the solution to this will not be an exclusively military solution.  There have to be improvements in governance.  There has to be a stepped-up and better coordinated reconstruction effort which Kai Eide is already helping to put into place. 

There will have to be greater effort on the side... on the Pakistan side of the border to address the extremism there.  And when those pieces of the puzzle come together, that is when Afghanistan will be able to move to the next phase in its evolution.  Thank you.