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Political Will Key to NATO’s Success, Secretary-General Says

By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service

PORTOROZ, Slovenia, Sept. 28, 2006 – Military equipment, availability of troops and the alliance's willingness to use them are on the table here as NATO defense ministers meet today and tomorrow, Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said here today.

“Over the next two days we have a chance to address the real political issues -- of resources, of available forces and, principally, of political will,” the secretary-general said in remarks opening the NATO defense ministerial conference.

Scheffer emphasized the need for NATO to succeed in its security and stabilization mission in Afghanistan. “In Afghanistan, NATO’s forces are conducting complex and challenging military operations,” he said, “and they are doing this with great courage and in a successful way.”

Afghanistan can move forward only if NATO’s efforts are successful, he said, and the stakes are high. “For the sake of the Afghan people, and indeed for all of us, security must prevail to allow reconstruction and development to proceed,” he said. “Opposing forces must be dealt with in a conclusive way. Afghanistan must never again become a launching pad for international terrorism.”

Among the key topics under discussion will be a timetable for NATO’s International Security Assistance Force to assume operational control of eastern Afghanistan, having already taken charge of the effort in the rest of the country.

“We must -- and I am sure we will -- finish the job and ensure the success of our operation in Afghanistan,” Scheffer said.

The secretary-general noted that students from all 26 NATO nations have been here for the past few days, discussing the issues the defense ministers will discuss.

“I was impressed by their dedication and the quality of the debate,” he said. “And I was reminded how the younger generation also take an interest in what this alliance is doing. They too stressed that NATO must stay the course in Afghanistan. And they noted that instability in that country would only serve to enable drug lords to continue to produce more of the opium that will be sold on our streets and blight their peers’ lives. We must not fail in Afghanistan, and that was also the conclusion of the students.”

With NATO’s annual summit meeting scheduled in Riga, Latvia, in two months, the defense ministers’ discussions here come at what Scheffer called “a critical juncture.”

“We need to address not only success today but also success tomorrow: how to consolidate and extend the modernization of our forces for future operations,” he said.

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Jaap de Hoop Scheffer

Related Sites:
International Security Assistance Force

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NATO Defense Ministers Gather in Slovenia to Discuss Afghanistan, Other Issues

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