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Afghanistan, Missile Defense Top NATO Agenda

By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service

BRUSSELS, Belgium, June 10, 2010 – Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and his NATO counterparts are meeting here today and tomorrow, with the training effort in Afghanistan and missile defense among the issues highlighting the talks.

In his opening remarks, Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said NATO’s aim for the International Security Assistance Force it leads in Afghanistan is to help that nation stand on its feet as a sovereign country able to defend itself against terrorism.

This is an important endeavor “because a stable Afghanistan means a safer world,” Rasmussen said.

“Tomorrow, with all the ISAF contributors,” he continued, “we will see how to step up our training effort even further, to set a strong foundation for transition to Afghan lead.”

The alliance’s defense ministers also will discuss missile defense, Rasmussen said.

“Our national armaments directors have confirmed that it is technically feasible to expand the system NATO is already developing to protect our troops so that it also protects our populations and territory,” he said. “And we know the extra costs are manageable: less than 200 million euros over 10 years -- spread among the 28 allies.”

Today’s missile defense discussions will lead to a decision at NATO’s November summit in Lisbon, Portugal, as to whether to press forward.

“Of course, in this financial climate, any investment has to be looked at carefully, and that includes defense,” the secretary general said. “We must ensure that taxpayers get value for the money that is spent on defense, but our job is to guarantee that our citizens are defended, which means spending enough on defense, and spending smart.”

Today’s meetings, Rasmussen said, will include discussions on priorities, ways to economize by “cutting back on concrete and on bureaucracy,” and pooling money where it makes sense to get needed capabilities that otherwise would be unaffordable.

 

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