NATO Defense Ministers Set Post-2014 Afghanistan Mission
By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service
BRUSSELS, June 5, 2013 NATO defense ministerial meetings yesterday and today helped to cement the alliance’s commitment to a “train, advise and assist” mission that will begin after the International Security Assistance Force disbands at the end of 2014, NATO’s senior civilian leader said today.
“The end of 2014 will mark the end of our combat mission, but also a new beginning for Afghanistan,” Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said during a news conference at the end of the ministerial gathering. “The Afghan people will be fully responsible for their country’s freedom, their country’s fate, and their country’s future.”
But they will not stand alone, he added. NATO has committed to a new mission called “Resolute Support.” It will not be ISAF by another name, Rasmussen emphasized. “It will be different and significantly smaller. Its aim will be to train, advise and assist the Afghan forces, not substitute for them,” he said.
NATO’s presence for that mission will center in the geographic corners of the country – east, west, north and south – and in the capital of Kabul, he said.
Rasmussen said over the last 11 years, NATO’s ISAF mission has given the Afghan government and people space to build their future. “With this new mission, we will continue to support them,” he added. “But ultimately, it is for the Afghans to determine their own future. That is what security transition is all about.”
While NATO has not yet assigned troop numbers for Resolute Support, he said, many member nations have expressed interest in contributing. Rasmussen added he is confident NATO will get enough contributions to ensure the Resolute Support mission will be fully manned.
The secretary general noted today’s program also included a meeting of the NATO-Georgia commission. Georgia, which aspires to join the alliance, is a committed partner and the largest non-NATO contributor to ISAF, he said.
Georgia has demonstrated impressive commitment to the alliance even as it pursues its own far-reaching defense reforms, Rasmussen said.
“Today, ministers expressed their appreciation for all Georgia has done to support our common goals,” he said. “They reaffirmed NATO’s continued support for Gerogia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty within its internationally recognized borders. And they made clear that they are ready to support and assist Georgia as it moves ahead with its reforms.”