NATO — Liam Fox: NATO support crucial to building Afghan forces

Sec­re­tary of State for Defence, Dr Liam Fox, has wel­comed the rapid progress in train­ing the Afghan Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Forces, and the role of the NATO Train­ing Mis­sion in Afghanistan, but insist­ed that NATO allies still need to up their game.

Meet­ing attend­ed by UK Defence Sec­re­tary, Dr Liam Fox, and NATO Sec­re­tary Gen­er­al, Anders Fogh Ras­mussen
Source: NATO
Click to enlarge

He con­firmed Afghanistan as the high­est for­eign pol­i­cy pri­or­i­ty of the new British Coali­tion Gov­ern­ment, and the top pri­or­i­ty for the Min­istry of Defence.

Speak­ing on the last day of his first NATO meet­ing in Brus­sels, Dr Fox said:

“The British Gov­ern­ment sup­ports both the mis­sion and the counter-insur­gency strat­e­gy.

“I encour­age allies to demon­strate strate­gic patience and give time for the counter-insur­gency strat­e­gy to work, but stress the need to be able to show sig­nif­i­cant progress, con­sol­i­dat­ing ISAF’s hold in cen­tral Hel­mand, and accel­er­at­ing the train­ing of the Afghan secu­ri­ty forces.

“We need to step up our approach to com­mu­ni­cat­ing the vital impor­tance of the mis­sion in Afghanistan. We need to pro­duce a stronger nar­ra­tive along­side the polit­i­cal lead­er­ship we are pro­vid­ing to ensure that our troops get the sup­port they deserve.”

Dr Fox empha­sised that the NATO Train­ing Mis­sion is key to ISAF’s strat­e­gy for tran­si­tion, to ensure the Afghans can take the lead in secur­ing their own coun­try in future:

“Gen­er­al McChrys­tal told this meet­ing that the Afghan Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Forces [ANSF] are mak­ing quick progress in terms of train­ing, but we still have some way to go in terms of improv­ing the Afghan Nation­al Police and get­ting the num­bers and qual­i­ty of train­ing up to the lev­el we require.

“We recog­nise the vital role of the train­ing mis­sion. We will assess whether we can con­tribute more and urge oth­ers to do the same.

Dr Liam Fox (right) meets NATO Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, in Brussels
Dr Liam Fox (right) meets NATO Sec­re­tary Gen­er­al, Anders Fogh Ras­mussen, in Brus­sels
Source: NATO
Click to enlarge

“Let me be direct: we are aware of the dif­fi­cul­ties that some coun­tries face in send­ing com­bat troops — polit­i­cal­ly and even con­sti­tu­tion­al­ly. How­ev­er, there is no excuse for any coun­try here not to send train­ers to the Afghan mis­sion.

“If we fail in the NATO Train­ing Mis­sion it will sig­ni­fy a lack of polit­i­cal will and a fail­ure of moral resolve.

“We need to ensure we can build up that crit­i­cal mass of the ANSF, so that when we do leave Afghanistan, we leave behind a secure coun­try, and not a secu­ri­ty vac­u­um. There is a moral duty on every mem­ber of NATO to con­tribute to that train­ing mis­sion, and that’s the mes­sage I give to our NATO part­ners today.”

Dr Fox wel­comed progress that is begin­ning to be made on plan­ning for tran­si­tion, in advance of the Kab­ul Con­fer­ence in July:

“It is impor­tant to ensure that both ISAF con­trib­u­tors and the Gov­ern­ment of Afghanistan are involved in devel­op­ing the plan for tran­si­tion and that the process should be trans­par­ent, allow­ing ISAF part­ners to com­mu­ni­cate progress towards tran­si­tion to domes­tic audi­ences.

“Secu­ri­ty cri­te­ria should be the most impor­tant in assess­ing readi­ness for tran­si­tion. Though some lev­el of gov­er­nance and devel­op­ment is essen­tial for deliv­er­ing secu­ri­ty, we must not set the bar too high. Gov­er­nance and devel­op­ment efforts will con­tin­ue through and beyond tran­si­tion.”

Dr Fox also reaf­firmed that NATO remains the most impor­tant strate­gic rela­tion­ship for the Unit­ed King­dom:

NATO is the core of the secu­ri­ty and defence of all its mem­bers, on both sides of the Atlantic. It is the UK’s instru­ment of first resort for col­lec­tive secu­ri­ty chal­lenges.

“One of the rea­sons why NATO remains so impor­tant and so suc­cess­ful is its abil­i­ty to change as risks and threats evolve. Afghanistan is one exam­ple of a task that would have been incon­ceiv­able a decade ago. Then the alliance was being told to go out of area or out of busi­ness. Today, it is very much in busi­ness but fac­ing even greater chal­lenges.”

Dr Fox empha­sised that NATO has pri­ma­cy in terms of Europe’s secu­ri­ty and the start­ing point should be that the EU only acts mil­i­tar­i­ly when NATO can­not or choos­es not to:

“I recog­nise, of course, that there will be occa­sions when it is appro­pri­ate for the EU to inter­vene but the EU should avoid dupli­cat­ing the func­tions NATO already per­forms and the capa­bil­i­ties it already pos­sess­es.

“In today’s eco­nom­ic cli­mate, the last thing any Defence Min­is­ter needs to put to his or her Finance Min­is­ter or Gen­er­als is a case for mil­i­tar­i­ly unnec­es­sary dupli­ca­tion. NATO and the EU need the strongest pos­si­ble links and what mat­ters most is what works best.”

Dr Fox expressed con­cern over the state of NATO’s finances but said that he was encour­aged by the Sec­re­tary General’s report to mem­bers which made it clear that much has been done to bring these under prop­er con­trol.

Dur­ing two days of meet­ings in NATO Head­quar­ters, Defence Min­is­ters dis­cussed NATO reform, resources, capa­bil­i­ties and mis­sile defence, and met in ISAF and KFOR for­mats to dis­cuss Afghanistan and Koso­vo. There were also meet­ings of the NATO-Ukraine Com­mis­sion, the NATO-Geor­gia Com­mis­sion and the Nuclear Plan­ning Group.

In the mar­gins of the for­mal meet­ings, Dr Fox met the NATO Sec­re­tary Gen­er­al and the Defence Min­is­ters of the Czech Repub­lic, Esto­nia, Nor­way, Den­mark, Poland, the Nether­lands, France, Afghanistan, Cana­da, Turkey, Por­tu­gal, Latvia, Aus­tralia, the Unit­ed States and Hun­gary.

Press release
Min­istry of Defence, UK