Rasmussen Cites Progress in Afghanistan, Libya

WASHINGTON, Nov. 3, 2011 — Con­demn­ing week­end vio­lence in Afghanistan, NATO Sec­re­tary Gen­er­al Anders Fogh Ras­mussen empha­sized today that it won’t under­mine the alliance’s com­mit­ment to Afghanistan as progress there con­tin­ues.

Ras­mussen, just returned from a his­toric vis­it to Tripoli, also praised NATO’s role in lib­er­at­ing Libya. “We did the right thing in the right way, and we achieved the right result,” he said. “I saw that it with my own eyes in Tripoli.”

The sec­re­tary gen­er­al not­ed con­tin­ued progress in Afghanistan that he insist­ed won’t be derailed by des­per­ate attacks by a weak­ened ene­my.

“Spec­tac­u­lar attacks cap­ture the head­lines. But they don’t cap­ture more ground,” he said. “They do not allow the ene­mies of Afghanistan to seize and hold ground. And the big­ger pic­ture is dif­fer­ent: over­all ene­my attacks are decreas­ing, and the ene­my has been weak­ened.”

Ene­my attacks dropped 26 per­cent from July to Sep­tem­ber this year, com­pared to the same peri­od last year, he not­ed. In Hel­mand province, attacks decreased by 30 per­cent, and in some dis­tricts, by 80 per­cent, he added.

Mean­while, NATO’s train­ing mis­sion has passed a new mile­stone in devel­op­ing Afghan secu­ri­ty forces. “Our tar­get for this Octo­ber was to have 306,000 Afghan sol­diers and police trained, and we did it,” Ras­mussen said.

“Tran­si­tion is on track,” he declared, not­ing that Afghan Pres­i­dent Hamid Karzai is expect­ed to announce short­ly the next group of provinces and dis­tricts to trans­fer to the Afghan secu­ri­ty lead. “A quar­ter of the Afghan pop­u­la­tion already has day-to-day secu­ri­ty pro­vid­ed by Afghan forces,” he said. “And I expect the next group to be equal­ly sig­nif­i­cant.”

Ras­mussen cit­ed oth­er signs of progress in Afghanistan: a grow­ing econ­o­my, more paved roads that pro­mote trade, improved edu­ca­tion pro­grams and an increas­ing role for women, among them.

Acknowl­edg­ing that “much hard work lies ahead” while tran­si­tion pro­ceeds, he called engage­ment with Afghanistan’s neigh­bors crit­i­cal.

Yesterday’s meet­ing in Istan­bul, where more than a dozen coun­tries from the region agreed not to inter­fere in Afghanistan’s affairs rep­re­sent­ed an impor­tant part of that process, he said. Under the Istan­bul Pro­to­col, these nations pledged to pro­tect Afghanistan’s sov­er­eign­ty and to coop­er­ate in dis­man­tling ter­ror­ist sanc­tu­ar­ies and safe havens.

Turn­ing his atten­tion to Libya, Ras­mussen praised the accom­plish­ments of Oper­a­tion Uni­fied Pro­tec­tor.

He became the first NATO sec­re­tary gen­er­al to vis­it Libya, mark­ing the end of NATO’s mis­sion there at mid­night Oct. 31, exact­ly sev­en months after it began.

NATO’s mis­sion is over, and the new Libya has been born,” he said.

“I am proud of what we achieved,” the sec­re­tary gen­er­al said. “We called our oper­a­tion Uni­fied Pro­tec­tor, and that is what we did: we uni­fied the inter­na­tion­al mil­i­tary response in sup­port of a his­toric Unit­ed Nations res­o­lu­tion, and we pro­tect­ed the peo­ple of Libya.”

Ras­mussen said many of the Libyans he met thanked him per­son­al­ly for NATO’s assis­tance. “NATO is in the heart of the Libyan peo­ple,” he said Mustafa Abdul Jalil, chair­man of Libya’s Nation­al Tran­si­tion­al Coun­cil, told him.

Pay­ing trib­ute to the courage and deter­mi­na­tion of the Libyan peo­ple who fought for and won their free­dom, Ras­mussen said it will now be up to them to shape a true democ­ra­cy and move their coun­try for­ward.

“Free­dom comes with respon­si­bil­i­ties,” he said he remind­ed the Libyans. “And the Nation­al Tran­si­tion­al Coun­cil has an immense respon­si­bil­i­ty, to the Libyan peo­ple and to his­to­ry.”

The Unit­ed Nations Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil made clear this week that the new Libya must be based on respect for human rights, the rule of law, jus­tice, rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and inclu­sion, he not­ed.

In addi­tion, Ras­mussen called on Libya to play a respon­si­ble role in the region that includes work­ing with neigh­bor states to stop the spread of arms through North Africa.

“As the Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil stressed, the Nation­al Tran­si­tion­al Coun­cil must do what­ev­er it takes to bring the sit­u­a­tion under con­trol,” he said.

As the NTC deals with these and oth­er chal­lenges, Ras­mussen stressed that “Libya is not alone.” It can call on the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty for sup­port, if need­ed, he said, and on NATO, which stands ready to help with defense and secu­ri­ty reforms, if asked.

“Despite all the chal­lenges, this is a time of opti­mism,” Ras­mussen said, with the Libyan peo­ple now hold­ing their coun­try in their own hands.

“They have the chance to make the future bet­ter than the past,” he said. “And, as I saw in Tripoli this week — that is what they are deter­mined to do.”

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