NATO Conference Focuses on Post-2014 Afghanistan

BRUSSELS, April 18, 2012 — NATO Sec­re­tary Gen­er­al Anders Fogh Ras­mussen today empha­sized sup­port to Afghanistan beyond 2014 in remarks open­ing a con­fer­ence of the alliance’s defense and for­eign min­is­ters here.

Ras­mussen not­ed the NATO sum­mit in Chica­go is a month away. “We have impor­tant work to do today and tomor­row to help set the stage,” he said.

The NATO-led Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force has been engaged in Afghanistan since 2001, and Ras­mussen said the alliance will con­tin­ue to sup­port that nation beyond 2014.

Meet­ings of NATO defense and for­eign min­is­ters today and tomor­row will shape the deci­sions on Afghanistan that the alliance’s heads of state and gov­ern­ment will make in Chica­go, Ras­mussen said, includ­ing com­plet­ing the tran­si­tion to Afghan secu­ri­ty lead by the end of 2014 and what form NATO’s con­tri­bu­tions in Afghanistan will take after that trans­fer.

Ras­mussen not­ed Afghan secu­ri­ty forces defeat­ed coor­di­nat­ed ene­my attacks April 15 in and around Afghanistan’s cap­i­tal of Kab­ul.

“This shows that the Afghan secu­ri­ty forces can deal with dan­gers and dif­fi­cul­ties, and they are get­ting stronger every day,” the sec­re­tary gen­er­al said.

He said his clear mes­sage to Afghanistan’s ene­mies is that they can’t just wait NATO out. “As we grad­u­al­ly draw down,” he added, “a still stronger Afghan secu­ri­ty force is tak­ing charge to pro­tect the Afghan peo­ple against bru­tal­i­ty and inhu­man­i­ty.”

NATO will main­tain a train­ing mis­sion and finan­cial sup­port to Afghan secu­ri­ty forces beyond 2014, Ras­mussen said. “We must make sure we main­tain the gains made with so much invest­ment in lives and resources,” he added.

Even in tough finan­cial times, the sec­re­tary gen­er­al said, sup­port­ing the Afghan forces is “a good deal in finan­cial and polit­i­cal terms.”

NATO remains com­mit­ted to its strat­e­gy and its long-term part­ner­ship with Afghanistan, Ras­mussen said.

“This is our mes­sage to the peo­ple of Afghanistan, to the ene­mies of Afghanistan, and to the neigh­bors of Afghanistan,” he said, “because it is in the inter­est of our own secu­ri­ty.”

Before a morn­ing meet­ing of defense min­is­ters this morn­ing, Ras­mussen said their dis­cus­sion would cen­ter on alliance “smart defense” efforts to acquire capa­bil­i­ties joint­ly that the alliance will need to counter future threats. Smart defense, he said, “means set­ting the right pri­or­i­ties. We must spe­cial­ize in what we do best and focus resources on what we need most. And we must work togeth­er to deliv­er capa­bil­i­ties that many nations can­not afford on [their] own.”

At the Chica­go sum­mit next month, Ras­mussen said, NATO will demon­strate its com­mit­ment “to con­tin­ue to invest polit­i­cal, mil­i­tary and eco­nom­ic cap­i­tal in a transat­lantic alliance that is ful­ly fit to deal with the secu­ri­ty chal­lenges of today and tomor­row.”

In a news con­fer­ence fol­low­ing the morn­ing ses­sion, he announced min­is­ters have pre­pared an inter­im mis­sile defense plan for Europe, with details to be announced in Chica­go.

NATO defense min­is­ters also dis­cussed a “con­nect­ed forces” ini­tia­tive to be final­ized at the Chica­go sum­mit, he added. This agree­ment will strength­en mem­ber nations’ coor­di­nat­ed edu­ca­tion, train­ing and tech­nol­o­gy efforts, the sec­re­tary gen­er­al said.

Finan­cial sup­port to Afghan forces after 2014 is expect­ed to cost $4 bil­lion per year, Ras­mussen added, though details of NATO nations’ con­tri­bu­tions to that total have not been final­ized.

Defense Sec­re­tary Leon E. Panet­ta and Sec­re­tary of State Hillary Rod­ham Clin­ton are both here for the NATO meet­ings, and are sched­uled to hold a joint news con­fer­ence lat­er today.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)