WASHINGTON, Feb. 28, 2012 — NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen took questions from reporters today about the recent violence in Afghanistan, NATO’s position on the Syrian uprising and the upcoming NATO summit.
Rasmussen held a news conference during a NATO Allied Command Transformation seminar here, held to prepare for the NATO summit scheduled for May in Chicago.
The secretary general condemned the killing of four U.S. military members by Afghans in violence that erupted in Afghanistan last week over the inadvertent burning of Quarans.
“The very tragic events will not in any way affect the timeline of transition” for security from coalition to Afghan forces, he said.
The violence, he added, does not represent the full picture of cooperation between International Security Assistance Forces and Afghan security forces.
“I remind you that 130,000 ISAF troops work on a daily basis together with more than 300,000 Afghan security forces, and the overall picture is of cooperation characterized by trust and confidence,” Rasmussen said.
“It would actually fulfill the strongest wishes of the enemy,” he added, “if they succeeded in dividing us from our partners in the Afghan security forces, and that will not happen.”
Despite the tragedy of the incident and the challenges that lie ahead, the secretary general said, “we must not lose sight of our goal - a stable Afghanistan. That is in all of our interests and that must remain the focus of our shared efforts.”
In Syria, 7,500 opponents of President Bashar al-Assad have been killed since a populist uprising against al-Assad began a year ago, the United Nations reported today.
At the press conference, Rasmussen responded to a question about the conflict in Syria, and why NATO was willing to help those in Libya, who opposed the 40-year rule of Muammar Qadhafi, but not the protesters in Syria.
“NATO has no intention whatsoever to intervene in Syria,” the secretary general said.
NATO strongly condemns the situation in Syria, he added, but “the allies find that a regional solution to the problem in Syria is the best way forward.
“In Libya we had a very clear United Nations mandate and we had active support from a number of countries in the region. None of these conditions are fulfilled in Syria,” he said.
“I commend the Arab League for their efforts to find a solution,” he added. “So far it’s not been successful, but I do believe countries in the region should engage actively in finding a solution.”
At the Chicago summit in May, NATO will follow up on major decisions made at the Lisbon summit in November 2010, including the commitment to an enduring partnership with Afghanistan, Rasmussen said, and “how to sustain the operations of today and face future challenges … by continuing to strengthen our core capabilities and transform our forces.”
The key to a stronger future alliance, he added, is “smart defense,” a concept that encourages allies to cooperate to develop, acquire and maintain military capabilities in accordance with the NATO strategic concept for 2020.
“Smart defense is about prioritization, specialization and cooperation,” Rasmussen said.
“We all know that it will be increasingly difficult for individual allies to acquire expensive military equipment on their own,” he added, “but by pooling and sharing resources by multinational cooperation and helping each other, they can better afford investments in the necessary military capabilities.”
The secretary general said he expects NATO to adopt a defense and deterrence posture review at the summit that will include nuclear policies.
“The essence of that document will be to find the appropriate mix between nuclear forces, conventional forces and missile defense,” he said.
Also in Chicago, “I expect all our allies to commit to long-term goals for the capabilities we need and for reinforcing the connection between our forces,” Rasmussen said.
“I expect them to back up that mission with concrete targets so that in a fast-changing world we can do better with what we have and stay lean, but strong,” he said.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)