NATO Secretary General comments on Afghanistan in advance of Defence Ministers meeting

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks during a press conference held in advance of the Defence Ministers meeting in Brussels, Belgium Nov. 7.
8 Nov 2017

Following are excerpts from NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg's press conference Nov. 7. He made the statements below about Afghanistan and Resolute Support in a press conference held in advance of the Defence Ministers meeting in Brussels, Belgium.

On goals of the Defense Ministers meeting: We will review our Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan together with our partners.  We will be joined by Afghanistan’s Acting Defence Minister, who will brief on the security situation and on the progress his government is making on essential reforms.

The last few weeks have been tough in Afghanistan, with a number of brutal and senseless attacks. Such as today’s attack on Shamshad TV. But at the same time, the Afghan Security Forces have shown bravery, determination and increasing capability.  And the Afghan people continue to demonstrate a remarkable resilience and hope for peace. Around 13,000 troops from 39 different countries currently serve in our Resolute Support Mission. The United States is already increasing its commitment as part of the new South Asia Strategy.  And many other Allies and partners will also send more troops in the months to come. To support Afghanistan’s efforts against international terrorism and for peace and reconciliation.


On Pakistan: We have regular contacts, dialogue with Pakistan, in many different ways. The Director of the International Military Staff here at NATO recently visited Pakistan; our commander in Afghanistan regularly meets with his Pakistani counterparts, because we have to address the big challenge that Taliban and the insurgents are working also out of bases in Pakistan. And we have raised that several times; it is extremely important that all countries in the region support the efforts of the Afghan National Unity Government and that no country provide any kind of sanctuary for the terrorists. So we will continue to raise this with Pakistan because we can only…, the fight against Taliban and terrorists will gain so much if we are able to have all countries in the region fully on board.



On the attack of Shamshad TV in Kabul Nov. 7: The attack we saw this morning was yet another example of brutal and horrendous attacks against civilians. The attack has now ended and it was the Afghan Security Forces that were able to stop it and it shows that the Afghan Security Forces they are professional, they are committed, and they have the capability to respond when the insurgents are attacking. It's always unacceptable when civilians are attacked as we have seen many examples of during the last weeks in Afghanistan, but in particular I think it is serious when they attack a TV station, Shamshad TV, which is not only an attack on civilians but is also an attack on one of the most important thing in a free and open society, and that's the free press.


So therefore it just underlines the importance of fighting the terrorists, fighting the insurgents, and continue to support the Afghan Security Forces which reacted in a very professional way to the attack on the TV station. NATO will continue to support Afghanistan and we have decided that we will strengthen our support. We are doing that in different ways. Perhaps the most important contribution now is that we have decided to increase the number of troops. We will not go back in combat operations but we need to strengthen the train and assist and advise mission, the Resolute Support Mission, to help the Afghans break the stalemate, to send a clear message to Taliban, to the insurgents, that they will not win on the battleground, the only way they can achieve anything is by sitting down at the negotiating table and be part of a peaceful negotiated political solution.

So the reason why we are supporting the Afghan Security Forces is to enable a political peaceful solution. There will be more troops; the current level is around 13,000; the new level will be around 16,000. They will train, assist and advise, and in particular we are focusing on training the Afghan Special Operations Forces which have proven so key in the fight against insurgents, the terrorists, the Taliban, and we are going to help them with developing their air force. The Afghans are now more and more capable of conducting air operations themselves, and we will help them with military schools, improved command and control.

We are also extremely focused, that will be an important issue during the meeting, on funding. Non-U.S. allies have promised US$ 1 billion yearly to support the Afghan army and police, and we will stress and I will underline the importance that we don’t only deliver the forces we have promised to train the Afghans but also deliver the funding for funding the Afghan national security and military. And then we will also address for instance the issue of sanctuaries in Pakistan and the importance of having a regional approach to a peaceful solution in Afghanistan.



On troop contributions to RS: I expect that when it comes to the troops for the Resolute Support, around half would be U.S. and roughly half non-U.S. I'm not able to give you exact figures because we are now in the process of generating the forces, that will be an important issue at the meeting on Thursday, but based on what we have seen so far indications are roughly half U.S., half non-U.S. of the additional forces, which is also actually the case now for the 13,000 troops we have there today. Then of course some nations also have some troops outside the Resolute Support Mission, but when you speak about the troops in the Resolute Support Mission, the NATO mission, it's roughly half-half.


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