Gates, Secretary General Express Satisfaction With NATO Conference
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
BRUSSELS, Belgium, June 12, 2009 Afghanistan dominated the discussions at the two-day NATO defense ministers conference that concluded here today, and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said they are pleased with the results.
NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer congratulates U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal upon the general’s confirmation to take command of the alliance’s International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan during a meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels, Belgium, June 12, 2009. DoD photo by U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Jerry Morrison
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The men spoke during separate news conferences at the end of a meeting of nations contributing forces to NATO’s International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.
The NATO ministers have approved in principle establishing a new military headquarters for ISAF to oversee day-to-day tactical operations.
“The logic is clear, … because the mission in Afghanistan has now grown to more than 60,000 forces, and it will keep growing,” de Hoop Scheffer said. Noting the need for cooperation among ISAF, the Afghan security forces, aid donors and other international entities, the secretary general said the commander of ISAF cannot handle all of the international coordination and devote enough attention to day-to-day military operations.
American officials have nominated Army Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez to fill the job, and once the headquarters is established, it will be solely an ISAF position. “This three-star general will wear one hat – an ISAF hat,” de Hoop Scheffer said.
The new command will report to a new ISAF commander. Army Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal stopped here on his way to Afghanistan, where he will take command of ISAF U.S. Forces Afghanistan tomorrow. “This morning, I introduced General Stan McChrystal to the ministers,” Gates said. “We all look forward to working with him as he brings fresh thinking and unparalleled energy and determination to Kabul.”
For the immediate future, the alliance ministers confirmed that they have generated the forces needed to provide assistance for Afghanistan’s elections in August. Eight battalions and their enablers will flow into the country for an up-tick of roughly 10,000 troops, de Hoop Scheffer said. The troops will provide a “third ring” of security for the election process after the first ring of the Afghan National Police and the second ring of the Afghan National Army, he added.
The extra troops will help in transporting election materials and protecting election workers, and will provide support in an impartial manner, the secretary general said.
NATO will provide higher-level training for the Afghan National Army and training and mentoring for the Afghan National Police. The alliance also will help to train a gendarmerie – a cross between police and military – for the country, de Hoop Scheffer said.
The alliance also will deploy its AWACS aircraft to Afghanistan to provide airborne warning and control capability. De Hoop Scheffer said the skies over Afghanistan are getting crowded with military and civilian aircraft, as well as with unmanned aerial vehicles. With very little ground-based radar capabilities, the NATO aircraft essentially will provide air traffic control, he said.