26 Jan 2007

NATO to step up assistance to Afghanistan

From left to right: Minister of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan, Rangeen Dadfar Spanta and NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer

On 26 January, NATO Foreign Ministers agreed to increase civilian and military assistance to Afghanistan, as part of a comprehensive strategy to reinforce gains made.

The United States, Denmark and several other NATO member countries gave indications of their intention to send additional troops, but also to increase aid and civilian personnel to boost reconstruction and development efforts.

Ministers, including from non-NATO countries that contribute to NATO’s operation in Afghanistan, also called for increased coordination between civilian and military efforts in the country, and among the civilian agencies involved in reconstruction.

The international community intends to keep the initiative in Afghanistan,” said NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, "that means more reconstruction, more support for the government, the Afghan national army, the security forces and the Afghan national police.

A coordinated approach

Afghanistan was the focus of an informal meeting of Alliance Foreign Ministers at NATO Headquarters.

It was followed by a special meeting of the 37 countries that contribute to NATO’s Afghanistan operation, Afghan authorities, as well as the United Nations, the European Union and the World Bank, on ways of better coordinating international assistance.

There was a call around the table that we do need a more concerted approach,” Mr. De Hoop Scheffer emphasized, “and the fact that we saw so many actors sitting around the table is already a key message.

Priorities will include boosting reconstruction efforts, stepping up training assistance to the Afghan army, police and administration.

Ministers also discussed the need to further enhance cooperation with Pakistan regarding cross-border issues with Afghanistan.

The meeting came on the initiative of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, to look at ways of enhancing the international community’s support to Afghanistan, of which the NATO-led security force is a key component.