Rasmussen upbeat about Afghan security pacts
WALES (Pajhwok): NATO secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen on Thursday said they would open a new chapter in the alliance’s relationship with Afghanistan after completing its mission by the end of this year.
Besides US President Barack Obama, UK Prime Minister David Cameroon and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, representatives from 60 other countries are attending the meeting.
NATO has been preparing to wind up its military mission in Afghanistan by the end of 2014, however, if Afghanistan signs the Status of Force Agreement (SOFA) then the alliance will start a new mission to train and advice Afghan forces from January 2015.
Earlier talking to Afghan journalists, Rasmussen linked providing equipment to Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) with the signing of SOFA between NATO and Afghanistan.
He warned if the agreement was not concluded, donors would stop extending their assistance to the Afghan forces. Rasmussen was satisfied with achievements made by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan.
About the post-2014 mission in Afghanistan, the NATO chief in his opening remarks said they needed to know very soon whether the necessary security arrangements would be signed by the Afghan government because it was a prerequisite for their continued presence in the war-torn country.
He said they needed to have a NATO status of forces agreement in place and that would also imply a signature on the bilateral security agreement between the United States and Afghanistan.
“I am encouraged by the fact that both presidential candidates have declared that they are ready to sign the security agreements soon after taking office.”
Rasmussen said he was hopeful that the necessary security arrangements would be signed in due time so that they could deploy a NATO training mission, Resolute Support, on January 1, 2015.
He encouraged the presidential candidates to complete the electoral process as soon as possible in a way that could be agreed by both of them.
“This Summit will shape future NATO. It will demonstrate our resolve, our unity, our solidarity,” he said in his opening remarks at the two-day summit began here on Thursday. Rasmussen called the summit in Wales one of the most important summits in the military alliance’s history.
“A crucial summit at a crucial time. We are faced with a dramatically changed security environment. To the East, Russia is attacking Ukraine. To the Southeast, we see the rise of a terrorist organization, the so-called Islamic State, that has committed horrific atrocities. To the South, we see violence, insecurity, instability.”
Rasmussen said they would take important steps at the summit to counter these threats and to strengthen the defence of their allies.
“We will adopt a Readiness Action Plan which aims at improving our ability to act swiftly to defend our allies if needed. On defence investment, we will turn the corner and reverse the trend of declining defence budgets.”
He said they would discuss what individual allies and what NATO could do to counter the threat from the terrorist organization, the so-called Islamic state.
“We will take steps to enhance our cooperation with Ukraine and other partners. Surrounded by an arc of crises, our alliance, our transatlantic community, represents an island of security, stability and prosperity.”
He said they would strengthen their transatlantic bond as the bedrock of security in Europe and North America.
Facing a volley of questions, Rasmussen stressed that they welcomed all efforts to find a peaceful solution to the crisis in Ukraine.
“So we continue to call on Russia to pull back its troops from Ukrainian borders, stop the flow of weapons and fighters into Ukraine, stop the support for armed militants in Ukraine and engage in a constructive political process.”
About the crisis in Iraq, Rasmussen said they had not received any request for a NATO engagement and that he was sure if the Iraqi government were to forward a request for NATO assistance, that would be considered seriously by NATO Allies.
“In that respect let me remind you that NATO has assisted Iraq in the past. We had a training mission in Iraq until 2011, and if the Iraqi government were to request resumption of such training activities I think NATO allies would consider such a request seriously.”
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