NATO Secretary-General Pledges Support to Afghan Mission
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 8, 2006 NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer today pledged the alliance's support to security and stability in Afghanistan.
"Afghanistan is a long-term commitment, and allies are resolved to provide our mission with the military tools to do the job as demonstrated by the substantial forces deployed and deploying in theater," Scheffer said in an open session of the NATO defense ministerial meeting here today. "Our objective is to assist the government of Afghanistan in providing security, thereby paving the way for reconstruction and development."
NATO's mission in Afghanistan is carried out under the auspices of the International Security Assistance Force. This force is in command of the security mission in Afghanistan's north and west, and is slated to take control in the south by this summer and in the east by the end of this year.
In a press conference here this afternoon, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said he is confident NATO will be able to perform its responsibilities in Afghanistan successfully.
Scheffer said these efforts are being done in close cooperation with the Afghan government. He called Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak, who is a guest at the meeting here, a "key partner in our common cause of assisting the Afghan government in providing security ... for the Afghan people."
Scheffer noted this is the first time an Afghan minister has attended a NATO ministerial meeting.
Wardak thanked the ministers and said Afghanistan welcomes the expansion of ISAF. "In preparing for the coming expansion of the ISAF mission, we should remind ourselves why it is so important that we succeed in our common endeavor," he said. "Increased prosperity and security, by offering the model of what democratic government can deliver for the ordinary people of Afghanistan, will marginalize the extremists in my country and around the world."
Scheffer stressed that the Afghan government must also commit troops and assets to the mission. Other international groups and nongovernmental organizations also must contribute to the cause.
"To succeed in Afghanistan, the governments of Afghanistan, the European Union, the (Group of 8) and others, including nongovernmental organizations, must continue and must enhance their efforts," he said.
Progress in Afghanistan to date is evident in the country's elected president, parliament and provincial councils, he said, but added that the mission is still dangerous and difficult. "Challenges and dangers lie ahead, but we must meet them together," Scheffer said.
"We cannot afford and we will not accept to let the Taliban have its way there," he said.
"The alliance and, indeed, the whole international community will work shoulder to shoulder with the Afghan government, each doing its part to make our collective mission a success," Scheffer said.
"With your assistance and our firm resolve, we will propel this noble nation, ... a nation that has suffered so much, and make it a model of peace, prosperity, moderation, freedom and democracy," Wardak said.