From the event


17 Feb. 2009

Weekly press briefing

by NATO Spokesman, James Appathurai

JAMES APPATHURAI (Spokesman, NATO): Friends thank you for coming. I hope not to take too much of your time, but I will do this in a telegraphic way. Just to discuss Krakow, the agenda, the priorities for discussion and then I'm happy to take your questions.

The meeting formally begins with an informal working lunch at 12:30. We'll go from 12:30 to 15:00. That will be a working lunch of NATO Defence Ministers with the invitees of course - Croatia and Albania. There will be no public opening statements. We will do that at the next meeting.

The focus will be operations, Afghanistan. A subject that will also come up I think more fully with ISAF non-NATO contributing nations just afterwards, but certainly election support I think will be one of the key subjects, both at the first meeting then at the second.

Kosovo will be I think extensively discussed. The progress... first the security situation on the ground, the relationship between NATO Forces and the other bodies involved in security on the ground and the progress in implementing the new tasks; standing down the KPC that has already happened; the creation of a civilian body to oversee the KSF and the standing up of the KSF. NATO has responsibilities or KFOR has responsibilities there and that will be discussed as well.

Third will be piracy and what role NATO might play and I think is likely to play in the relatively near future, again, in countering piracy. You all know we had a standing maritime group off the coast of Somalia late last year. I think it is quite possible and certainly Ministers will discuss the possible deployment of another standing NATO maritime group for a certain period off the coast of Somalia. We will see how that discussion goes, but it is on the agenda.

There will next be starting at 15:40 to 18:10 an informal - this is all informal - meeting of NATO Defence Ministers with invitees and with non-NATO ISAF contributing nations. There are 41 countries now represented in the ISAF mission. Defence Minister Wardak of Afghanistan will be at the table. So will Kai Eide, the head of the UN assistance mission in Afghanistan. I can tell you he is today in Brussels. He has met with the Secretary General. He has also met with the NATO Ambassadors in anticipation of the meeting in Krakow. An invitation has been issued to Javier Solana as usual as well.

They will discuss, I'm quite sure, a number of issues: reiterating the long term commitment of all these nations and organizations to Afghanistan. They will discuss support to the Afghan National Army which is expanding; the possibility of doing more to support the Afghan Police. There has been no decision taken on this. Right now NATO provides co-ordination with ANP, ANA and ISAF; between ANP, ANA and ISAF when operating in the same areas; in extremis and self-defence support to the Afghan National Police within the means and capabilities that we have; and technical advice and information sharing and surveillance for example to border police in supporting ANA units.

So we have a number of supporting roles now, but the police are not as well advanced in their development as the Afghan National Army. They are an essential element of Afghan security. They is also an essential element of the way in which we do business as an international organization in Afghanistan and that is our military forces clear an area of militants, then the territory needs to be held in order for it to be possible to build - in other words for the development to work. So we need the police to be more effective with regard to the hold function.

There are a number of excellent initiatives underway and the Ambassadors heard again from Kai Eide a view which I know they share as well and that is that the new Minister of the Interior, Minister Atmar, has put in place and is carrying out effectively a number of programmes to reform the police, to clear it of corruption, to increase its effectiveness. That is happening and I think it's one of the areas which give confidence to the NATO Allies and certainly to the UN as well, based on what Kai Eide has said today.

But as a possibility of doing more to support the police let me mention in that regard that one of the principle ways NATO can do this is by proving more operational mentoring and liaison teams, embedded training teams -


... army which can free up some of the U.S. trainers to go and support the police. We are at 49 OMLT's now. That is still a shortfall from what we need, though less than it used to be. The requirement will continue to go up as the ANA expands.

Election support I mentioned; this will also come up again. The elections are due to be held on August 20th. Voter registration has gone well, but we now need to start preparing to move in forces on a temporary basis in order to support the elections in all parts of the country.

Finally Ministers will review the political military plan that NATO has for Afghanistan which will have amongst its priorities, and I mentioned this, training and equipping the Afghan National Security Forces, election support, providing the necessary resources and seeing how we can enhance the regional approach. And that of course means first and foremost deepening our relations with Pakistan both politically in terms of high level exchanges and in the more practical sense by providing training and other support to Pakistani security forces. That has already started to happen, but certainly more could be done.

The Secretary General will give his press conference at the Auditorium Maximum - great name - of the Jagiellonian University, and I asked a pole how to pronounce that so I hope I got it right.

Friday morning there will be again a meeting of the 28. So the NATO Defence Ministers alone where they will focus on transformation, NATO Response Force implementation and Headquarters reform. The Secretary General is leading a process of Headquarters reform from which he will seek or on which he will seek the views of the NATO Ministers in terms of improving the way in which the Headquarters functions - moving the staff, the budget, sort of nuts and bolts Headquarters functioning. As the Headquarters gets bigger it needs to be more efficient.

At 11:20 there will be a meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission again with invitees. They will review the defence and security sector reform in Ukraine and they will also discuss the first annual national program that Ukraine is in the process of developing. It is not complete yet, but this is a reflection of the upgrade in the sense of the NATO-Ukraine Commission to match the NATO-Georgia Commission since the events of last August. Both Commissions... one created and one changed.

Between the NATO-Ukraine Commission and the NATO-Georgia Commission, there will be a signature by a number of Allies of the programme Memorandum of Understanding for Allied Ground Surveillance. In other words they will be taking an important next step. In a sense opening the signature of the Memorandum of Understanding to put in place allied ground surveillance. This is not the end of the signature process. This is the opening of the signature process which they hope to have completed by all the participating nations by Strasburg and Kehl. As you know a base has been chosen for AGS. The model and structure of allied ground surveillance has been agreed. A consortium has been agreed, has been chosen to implement. So we are moving forward on AGS.

Finally 12:30 to 13:20, there will be a meeting of the NATO-Georgia Commission with invitees which will discuss a number of subjects: NATO's assistance to Georgia since the events in August; Georgia's defence reform; its priorities for 2009 including a review of the National Security Strategy; and I could not, I think, exclude a discussion on the Russian bases that are being built or announced to be built on Georgian territory in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

That I think is what I wanted to say in terms of previewing the meeting.

Q: (Inaudible)

APPATHURAI: Sigonella in Italy.

Q: I'll be brief. I understand that the structure of the NRF is being reviewed and that the Sec Gen has put together three possible outlines. I was wondering if you can give us any details on the three possible new structures for the NRF that are being considered.

Also I was wondering if you could tell us a little bit more about the annual programmes for Ukraine and Georgia and the Commissions. Could you tell us how they are different to what an MAP might have looked like?

And also I was wondering about Pakistan - if NATO has any reaction to announcements. I've seen today that the Pakistani government rather than cracking down on Taliban type insurgents, in particular the Swat area, are actually giving them more (...) freedom.

APPATHURAI: No of course, I can't discuss details on the NRF. What I can say is this. There is no discussion of the NRF concept; the missions that it should carry out and that includes not just the missions on the ground that it might have to carry out, but the transformational role that it should have. In other words, the role that it should have in catalyzing and directing the modernization of NATO Forces.

Where there continues to be discussion - that is how best to generate the forces attached, that should be attached and at what level those forces should be maintained. That is very much an open discussion as it has been since the NRF was created. There is nothing new there. What I cannot discuss of course is the various options that are on the table. We'll let you know when one is chosen.

The annual national programmes are not Membership Action Plan structures. What they do is focus on the reforms, defence, economic, political reforms and security sector reforms that individual countries need to make to move closer to NATO. But the Membership Action Plan has a very clear and defined structure and a uniform structure for all of the MAP countries.

The ANPs while of course being not totally dissimilar are individual to these two countries, very much set by their own priorities, but with guidance from NATO to help them come closer to NATO standards. So it does not follow automatically the MAP template to put it that way and they are much more tailored to the individual countries. But the aim of helping them meets NATO standards and come closer to NATO standards - that is quite similar.

Swat. I think, as Mr. Holbrook also said, we should all be concerned by a situation in which - and I'm not saying that's yet the case - but we would all be concerned by a situation in which extremists would have safe haven. The Pakistani government is clearly engaged in a very, very difficult challenge. They are putting enormous resources into fighting extremism in their own country. The President has lost his wife to these extremists. So I don't think anybody should doubt his or their government's determination to tackle this problem. Certainly his personal loss should not go unmentioned.

The Pakistani government and NATO, because I can only speak for NATO, want to deepen our relationship and we on NATO's side want to deepen our support for their efforts and we have offered a number of practical ways in which we can do that. But it remains the case, without doubting the good faith and efforts of the Pakistani government, that this region is suffering very badly from extremism and we would not want to see that get worse.

Q: James on this Swat agreement, do you think that this agreement would hinder the fight against extremism... made difficult NATO's work in the region?

The mic is not working.

APPATHURAI: But it's not working inside the room. It works to go back to the headquarters. No, no. I'll repeat it.

The question is whether this deal will make extremism worse and make it harder for NATO. I don't know the answer. I don't know the answer to that question of course and we will have to wait and see. It is the principle which I was referring to. It does not... let’s say it is certainly a reason for concern. That's the best I can say.


Q: I have a question on a slightly different topic. A Deputy Minister of Defence of Norway has said that Norway would prefer that the new Secretary General of NATO is not a representative of a country implicated in the Iraqi War. You understand that this could complicate exceptionally choosing the new Secretary General. I would beg you to outline briefly what is the process of electing a new Secretary General. Is consensus needed? Could an individual country impose veto, et cetera?

APPATHURAI: Yes. Thank you. I have no comment what a Deputy Minister of Norway might or might not have said, but the process for selecting a new Secretary General is a relatively informal one. The NATO Ambassadors have their process and that is led by the Dean, the longest serving Ambassador, and they discuss everything related to a transition of a Secretary General and that includes very much the process, the timing and the transition process.

At the same time, Ministers and heads of state in government also of course have their own discussion about potential candidates which they make in the larger context of the discussions that they need to have. I have no idea where this process is. You won't be surprised that the international staff of NATO and indeed the Secretary General have absolutely no role in this process. That is the one process in NATO that is done without us and quite appropriately so.

So I can't really tell you much more than that because as I say it is informal and done outside of the formal channels of NATO.

Q: James, I'm sure you've seen the report from the UN on the civilian casualties in Afghanistan. Record numbers. Perhaps more worrying still is also the rise in civilian casualties resulting from attacks by NATO, US or Afghan soldiers. So is the Secretary General going to deliver a message in Krakow, perhaps, ensuring we minimize civilian casualties is a priority, especially now.

And just on the broader discussion with Pakistan, could you just kindly elaborate on what kind of assistance NATO is already providing to Pakistan and would it have been a good idea to maybe invite Pakistani representatives too?


APPATHURAI: Thank you. On civilian casualties: reducing civilian casualties is a clear priority for NATO. We discussed this... the Secretary General discussed this extensively with President Karzai at the Munich Security Conference. I'm quite sure it will be discussed with Minister Wardak when he comes. COMISAF is in regular discussion and (inaudible) regular discussion both with President Karzai and with Kai Eide on this issue. He has implemented a tactical directive which is very clear in the steps required by ISAF Forces to reduce to the absolute minimum civilian casualties.

So let no one doubt NATO's determination to reduce these to a minimum. That's the first point.

Second point is let also no one doubt who is primarily responsible for civilian casualties. Our figures are very clear and we have a new and we consider reliable tracking system in which we have confidence and that is within NATO/ISAF. Our figures for 2008 were about 100. The actual number was 97, but let us say 100 civilian casualties caused by ISAF Forces and... about 130, let us have full disclosure, by OEF (Operation Enduring Freedom). 987, so let us say about 990 by militants - in other words the Taliban and their associates - are responsible for about 80 percent of the civilian casualties and are making absolutely no effort to reduce them. And if you have any doubt about that look at what happened in Kabul last week. So let us - and I've said this before - put the blame clearly where it lies.

I might add that they fight from civilian areas. They retreat to civilian areas. They use human shields. If you doubt that please look at our website. We'll show you film of it. So even where NATO-ISAF does unintentionally cause these casualties, there's a reason and the reason is very often that they are putting civilians into harm's way.

Should we do better? We should and we will try. But let us just take note that we try and put these into proportion. The Secretary General I'm quite sure will discuss this with Minister Wardak in Krakow. I'm quite sure Minister Wardak will also wish to raise it with the other ISAF countries.

This is, in terms of Pakistan excuse me, this is of course a meeting of ISAF nations and Pakistan, while playing a very important role as a transit country and a very important role in terms of partnership with us along the border, is not a troop-contributing nation. There is I think a very serious discussion going on underway and you will see other international meetings in the next few months in that regard about bringing in a more regional approach politically and obviously Pakistan will be very much a part of that discussion. But this meeting is not that meeting.

What are we doing now? We provide training as I mentioned to Pakistani officers in NATO schools and that is on the NATO bill. We provide the financing for that. We are stepping up our political engagement. We are offering to step up military to military contacts as well and I think the Pakistani government is open to that. We also have very good co-operation into other areas. One is intelligence sharing. There is a joint intelligence centre in Kabul (Pakistani-Afghan-NATO) and we have one border control co-ordination centre in Khyber, Torkum. A second one is about to be opened. We're working towards the third, again, joint border control co-ordination centre.

So we have a level of co-operation. It can be enhanced. I think the Pakistani government would like to see it enhanced and they will meet I think with a very open mind from NATO.


Q: I wonder if I could ask about the NRF issue.


Q: We were hearing that the NAC had made a decision essentially to authorize use of the NRF for election support. Wondered what the current status of that was and how likely it is that we will get NRF elements going to Afghanistan and which countries might be involved in contributing in that way.

APPATHURAI: Thanks. The short answer is this. What the NAC has decided is that election support is a priority for NATO for this year in Afghanistan. That was the decision that they took. Now we will have force generation... Well first we'll have a discussion in Krakow based on that decision on what forces are necessary and then there will be force generation to provide those forces. I cannot say what countries will contribute obviously. Even if the decision had been taken, it would be for them to announce. But we have not yet come to the point of force generating the forces for the election. The only decision the NAC has taken is to state very clearly that this is the priority for this year. That's it.

Q: (Inaudible)

APPATHURAI: Not yet, but I'll tell you after Krakow.

Q: I would like to ask about the NATO-Russia relationship. Will it be on the agenda in Krakow? What is the status at the moment? After Munich, it seems that there is a new U.S.-Russia mood. I don't know whether it reflects in NATO-Russian relations.

APPATHURAI: There will be at least one, if not more, informal meetings between the NRC Ambassadors (Ambassador Rogozen and the 26 plus two NATO Ambassadors) in the run-up to the Foreign Ministers meeting on the 5th of March. I don't expect Russia - I'll be very frank - to be extensively discussed at the Defence Ministerial. I think that that will be principally for the Foreign Ministers after one or more informal meetings of the NRC Ambassadors. So to be honest I think that's more for Brussels than it is for Krakow.

Q: James what can we expect from the discussion about the bases in Abkhazia and South Ossetia on Friday?

APPATHURAI: A, I don't know that there will be a discussion on Abkhazia and South Ossetia, but I would not be surprised if there were. When the Georgian Ministers were here a couple of weeks ago, there was quite an extensive discussion of that. The NATO Allies have been quite clear that they consider the Russian announcement - and I think it is actually happening - to build bases in Abkhazia and South Ossetia against the will of the Georgian government to be a violation of the territorial integrity of Georgia and of real concern.

The Secretary General had a very frank discussion with Deputy Prime Minister Ivanov where I can tell you there was absolutely no meeting of the minds on this. I think Deputy Prime Minister Ivanov was quoted later in the press as saying that this decision by Russia was irrevocable. It is something where the Allies will not be in agreement with Russia.

If it comes up at the meeting at the very least I think the Georgian Minister will hear that view point from the Allies and that is they continue to support the territorial integrity of Georgia and not to accept the building of Russian bases on Georgian territory. I might add that the Secretary General said in his speech in Munich that he found it difficult to imagine a serious discussion on President Medvedev's proposals on a new security architecture for Europe where the first principle, according to President Medvedev, is respect for territorial integrity while this was happening.

So I think... let me refer more to what the Secretary General has said than what might come up in Krakow, but certainly that's what the Secretary General has said until now.

Q: How great is your concern that the current manoeuvrings in Slovenia might hold up Croatia's entry past the April summit or indeed worse?

APPATHURAI: What's happening in Slovenia is of course for the Slovenian people to manage as a process and not for NATO to interfere with. That being said, we hope to welcome Croatia and Albania fully to the NATO table at the April summit. We foresee certainly that 25 of the 26 countries will have completed the ratification processes quite soon. There are only three remaining and I think that certainly two will do it quite quickly. We hope that Slovenia will find a way without, as I say, wishing to interfere in their internal political processes, find a way to ratify in time for Albania and Croatia to also be able to ratify the adapted Washington Treaty and deposit their instruments of ratification in time for the summit.

Just to be clear: the 26 have to ratify, then the Washington Treaty is adapted in essence to add the two names of the two countries, and then they have to ratify the adapted Washington Treaty and then deposit their instruments of ratification. So it is not without a number of steps ahead this political process and we hope that all 26, including Slovenia, will be in a position to allow this to go forward.

Q: One thing about the statistics. You said 190 victims from the Taliban?

APPATHURAI: No. I said 980. Neuf cent quatre-vingt.

Q: Okay.

APPATHURAI: Neuf cent quatre-vingt dix. Exactement. Neuf cent quatre-vingt-sept.

Q: Okay. And then how NATO do this statistics? Like for example in combat area when there is fights between Taliban and NATO troops, how do you know who killed who?

APPATHURAI: The reason why we don't use and I have not used and COMISAF has not used civilian casualty statistics before this year was because we didn't have - he didn't have - full confidence in the system that he had in place or that ISAF had in place for checking in other words. A thorough review was made; a new set of procedures was put in place. I will not obviously discuss in public what those are, but I can say that it is a system in which ISAF has confidence and therefore in which I have confidence and I have seen how it works.

So without going into detail I can say it has been reviewed, it has been upgraded and we have confidence in the system that we have in place.

APPATHURAI: Il y a trois en bas et puis on revient.

Q: You didn't mention the plan to intensify the fighting of the drug lords in Afghanistan. Isn't that on the agenda? Related to that, the debate that was ignited by the letter from General Craddock that was leaked in the German media, this whole discussion.

APPATHURAI: I'm sorry. Could you repeat the last question? It's a bit noisy.

Q: Well related to implementing that Budapest decision -


Q: ... the debate that was ignited by General Craddock's letter that was leaked in the German press. What's the status on that discussion?

APPATHURAI: Well it's a bit the same discussion. I would not be at all surprised if NATO's counter-narcotics efforts were on the agenda as well it's true. NATO has a number of supporting roles - you are aware of this - in terms of intelligence provision, training, transport and in extremis support and MEDEVAC for Afghan counter-narcotics officials. There was, you're quite right, let's say a slightly too public internal discussion between the various levels of the chain of command on implementing the Budapest decisions. That discussion is now complete.

General Craddock has issued his orders based on the input he received from the chain of commands - General Ramms, General McKiernan - which provide the authorities necessary for ISAF Forces to take action against narcotics facilities and facilitators where they provide material support to the insurgency. So there is no more discussion required within the chain of command. It has occurred and that controversy such as it was, and it was only a controversy because it was public, is finished.

I think Ministers will wish to discuss the role that NATO should play and how that is taking place with regards to counter-narcotics, but obviously I can't predict how the discussion will go. I think that answers your questions.

Q: To round it off.


Q: I mean, specifically the debate in Germany, Denmark, other countries -


Q: ... sparked by this letter was that it was at least presented as if General Craddock thought it wouldn't be necessary to document connections between the Taliban and the drug dealers or the drug manufacturers before attacking them or engaging them. So is that situation ruled out now or...?

APPATHURAI: Yes. Well let me be clear and I don't want to talk about who provided what initial exchanges. The final result - when I use the words "Where they provide material support to the insurgency" - that is essential. Yes, there has to be a demonstration of material support and the ways in which that is to be demonstrated are set out in the order. I will obviously not discuss that in public. You will understand that. But it is quite clearly set out in the order that linkage needs to be demonstrated and the ways in which that is demonstrated are also set out. So that is... that discussion is closed.

Q: Concerning missile defence system. I know that it’s not on the agenda, but as this is the first meeting of the Allies after the presidential election, I mean after the inauguration of the new administration, do you think there is a possibility that Secretary General will ask for some clarification bearing in mind the recent reports either from Russia or the United States and bearing in mind NATO's December declaration that the missile defence system will be part of the future defence system in Europe?

APPATHURAI: I certainly don't know if the Secretary General is going to ask for any clarification. I would not be surprised if missile defence were to be raised by one Minister or another, not least considering the location of the meeting. But is it on the formal agenda? There is no formal agenda. So Ministers can raise what they want and I would not be surprised if it were to be raised. That's the most I can say.

Q: A question not directly linked with Krakow. Can you confirm that Ankara is making difficulties to France to go back to military structures of NATO? What I heard about 10 days ago Ankara is asking for some kind of parallel procedure linked with European Union accession.

APPATHURAI: I can certainly not confirm that. Turkey... well let me put it another way. No NATO country is causing any difficulties of which I am aware. France has not made its decision or at least it has not announced any decision on whether or not it wishes to retake its full place in the integrated military structure. Only when it takes that decision and announces it will we then launch the procedures within NATO necessary to manage that process.

The Secretary General is the guardian of process within NATO. There is no precedent for this. I have seen in the press references to Spain. This is was a very different circumstance of which we are all very well aware. France withdrew itself. France can take the decision to come back. That is certainly our view.

Beyond that whatever further processes are necessary we will launch them or the Secretary General will launch them after and only when France announces that it wishes to come back fully into the integrated military structure to be clear.

Q: Are you aware how many member states of NATO decided to cut the military budgets because of the crisis and what affect it would have on NATO plans? Are you going to discuss this?

APPATHURAI: I am not aware that any NATO nation has cut its military budget as a result of the crisis. Sorry... it's internal military budget. I was thinking about the NATO military budget. Yes, not that's true. I couldn't give you a comprehensive answer. I have seen obviously Poland has done that.

We... NATO (I'll put it that way)... NATO understands fully the financial pressures under which all of our governments now find themselves and the conflicting demands for funds which any Finance Minister is now going to face. We will continue however and the Secretary General will continue to push hard for defence budgets to remain where they are. I think it's probably unrealistic to push for an increase, but at least to remain where they are for a very simple reason and that is that our financial prosperity depends on security. That is the foundation and we cannot ignore even during times of crisis the essential foundations on which our economies and our societies are based.

What does that mean? It certainly means A - we have to try to keep defence spending where it is and B - it means doing things more efficiently. More co-operation, more joint efforts, fewer national restrictions and therefore more effectiveness in the field and in terms of defence industrial co-operation. All of these we think to be very important steps that can be taken without spending any more money that will get us more effectiveness for the buck or for the Euro.

We'll go there and then back up.

Q: Although NATO will not like to intervene in Slovenian affairs, the fact is that Croatian membership is put at risk by this referendum in Slovenia. How much sense it makes if we have a NATO summit with Croatian membership blocked? And does NATO... is thinking about a scenario to have just Albania and not Croatia or just two of them or nothing?

APPATHURAI: The scenario we are envisioning is Albania and Croatia being very happily welcomed in Strasburg and Kehl to the NATO family fully and formally. I can tell you the Secretary General is following this issue very carefully and he will have discussions with whomever he has to have discussions with to express his views on this subject. We hope and look forward to Slovenia, like all the other NATO Allies, completing the ratification process in time. We understand the complications, but we cannot intervene in the process beyond what I've already said.

Q: (Inaudible)


Q: (Inaudible)

APPATHURAI: I don't want to go down that route. These are two individual countries. They are treated as two individual countries by all of the Allies.

Go ahead.

Q: Are the Ministers going to discuss two matters that are first the review this time of military structure. That is to say reduction of numbers that has been envisaged in military structure. And secondly on AWACS, those people insisting on sending AWACS to Afghanistan - is this problem going to be addressed during the Ministers' meeting or is it still in the hands of military committee as it has been for months and months?

So two technical questions.

APPATHURAI: Thank you. No, not that technical. I have no information that AWACS is going to be discussed. I can't say it won't be, but I don't have any information that it will be. PE Review, the Peace Establishment Review is I think likely to be discussed. I have no idea where it will end up. As you know, this is a discussion that has also taken some time to reach a decision, but I understand the discussions are going reasonably well. Let's discuss in Krakow where we are, but yes PE Review, Peace Establishment Review, will be on the agenda.

I think you've been waiting a while and then we'll go back to you.

Q: Will there by any discussion of the alternate supply routes for Afghanistan, the one going through Russia and I guess some other possible ones?

APPATHURAI: It is certainly possible. Again, I can't exclude it. To put this in context: over 80 percent of our supplies for the ISAF mission go through Pakistan and that, despite the occasional difficult day, is working fine. We get the supplies in that we need. We have full stockpiles inside of Afghanistan of all the necessary equipment and individual Allies have, and even NATO has alternate supply lines as well.

So with that in mind additional flexibility through a northern route would be welcome and the Russian Federation has made an offer. We have accepted that offer and we are in discussion with the other countries in the chain necessary to complete it. Will it be discussed? That's quite possible, but I don't expect certainly... well it's an informal meeting so there won't be any decisions taken anyway, but it might well come up. That's the best I can say.

Q: Thanks James. Just two really factual questions. If you can say what are the other countries apart from Slovenia that still have to ratify and if you could repeat those numbers on casualties because -

APPATHURAI: Sure. The two countries as far as I'm aware are the Netherlands and Greece, both of which I think are quite advanced in their ratification processes. Casualty figures: it's around 100 ISAF; I think it's around 150 (130) OEF and around 990 by militants of whatever kind, Taliban and other extremist groups - 987 but let's say around 990. It's hard to be that precise.

Q: 2008?

APPATHURAI: Those are 2008 figures and as I say I don't have 2007 figures because we didn't have the same system nor as reliable we think as system in place.

Q: (Inaudible)

APPATHURAI: Afghan National Security Forces, no. We don't track that.

Colleagues... oh, we've got two. Okay.

Q: James do you know already which alphabet NATO will choose for summit, English or French?


Q: What is the end of this story with the seat for French President? And the third one because of financial difficulties, Ukrainian Army and Ministry has to cut a number of expenses. Interesting if NATO has some mechanism or measure to help Ukrainians?

APPATHURAI: That's a good question. Which alphabet I don't know. We have occasionally used the French order for seating. Certainly there's absolutely no reason why not in a bilingual organization, despite the fact that I do my whole press briefing in English, there's absolutely no reason why we couldn't use the French again. But I don't think any decision has been taken on that as far as I'm aware. There are of course meetings... there's a working dinner in Germany and then a working day in Strasburg, but we only have two official languages, so I don't know.

In terms of the seating arrangements, the NATO protocol has been and continues to be that during the public opening ceremony, the host (in this case hosts) sit next to the Secretary General. Then once the press leaves the room, heads of state and government take their seats in alphabetical order as is the NATO tradition and the NATO protocol.

Ukrainian Army... that's a very good question. I understand only from reading that in fact the financial crisis has bitten very hard in Ukraine and I would not be surprised if the difficulties which the Ukrainian government is experiencing with regard to their defence and security sector were to be raised at the meeting, but I could not say now what the results will be. I think it's a good question to ask the Secretary General at the end of the meeting.