NATO Head Discusses Afghan Violence, Syria, Chicago Summit

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)