Despite Continuing Progress, Challenges Ahead Are Formidable
Despite Continuing Progress, Challenges
Ahead Are Formidable
by NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop
Scheffer at the Afghanistan Conference. Berlin, March 31, 2004.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I appreciate the opportunity to say a few words on behalf of
the North Atlantic Alliance at this important meeting hosted by the German and
Following the landmark Bonn conference in 2001 which set in
train the transformation process we are witnessing in Afghanistan, it is highly
appropriate for the International community and our Afghan friends to meet in
Berlin to take stock of our achievements to date and to look at the way ahead.
Throughout this process, NATO has played a key role and will continue to do so.
Afghanistan is a top priority for NATO. Our own security is
closely linked to the future of Afghanistan as a stable, secure country where
citizens can rebuild their lives after decades of war. Afghanistan is also part
of the new challenges NATO wants to address as part of its transformation set in
train at the Prague Summit in November 2002. That is why, last summer, the
Alliance made the political commitment to take charge of the International
Security Assistance Force. And it is why NATO is determined to see this mission
through, and to make it a success.
We have already made real achievements. The security provided
by ISAF has already helped progress in a number of areas.
While NATO has facilitated this progress, President Karzai
and his government have driven it. I want to salute them to encourage them to
stay the course and to assure them of the Alliance’s continuing support.
Despite this continuing progress, the challenges ahead are
formidable. Security must be established throughout the country. Governance must
be unified further and made truly representative. Poverty must be tackled, and
economic reform must take root. Lawlessness, organised crime, and a growing drug
trade must be brought under control. And returning refugees must be re
integrated into society.
NATO will continue to play its part. Through its work with
the Afghan authorities to spread security and stability. And through its close
co operation with other international organisations and NGOs that are able to
assist in other areas. NATO’s Senior Civilian Representative, Minister Cetin,
already plays and will continue to play a key part in this process.
At the moment, the Alliance is working hard on the
establishment of new - Provincial Reconstruction Teams under ISAF command.
Through PRTs, in general, nations have shown their commitment to the
stabilisation of Afghanistan. In a short period of time, many PRTs have been
established, showing a unique resolve to assist the Afghan authorities. Through
the PRTs, we want to help the Afghan Government to extend its authority, and to
spread security more widely in the country. In addition, PRTs may assist in the
reform of Afghanistan’s defence and security sector, and facilitate wider
We are glad that the concept of PRTs enjoys the full support
of the Afghan Government. And we are pleased that a large number of ordinary
Afghans have welcomed the establishment of PRTs as well.
We are about to finalise plans for NATO to take charge of a
substantial number of PRTs in addition to the one in Kunduz we already took over
from Germany in December. I want to thank those Allies, Partners and other
nations who have offered to contribute to additional PRTs – and to strongly
encourage other nations to consider pitching in as well.
In addition to the establishment of PRTs, NATO is also
looking at ways in which it can meet President Karzai’s request to help secure a
proper environment for the elections in September. This will require a further
expansion of ISAF. This work is well in hand.
Clearly, the main responsibility for creating this
environment lies with the Afghan security forces. But we all realise the
importance of free and fair elections to the political process in Afghanistan.
And so NATO is examining how it can help, in co ordination with the Afghan
Government, the United Nations, and the leadership of Operation Enduring Freedom.
More generally, the relationship between ISAF and Operation
Enduring Freedom remains crucial to the success of the international community’s
engagement, and hence the future of Afghanistan. The fact that several Allies
take part in both operations has encouraged excellent and constructive co
operation. As ISAF assumes greater responsibilities beyond Kabul, we want to
keep a close eye on opportunities to complement and reinforce each other’s
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The NATO Allies are very well aware of the crucial importance
of Afghanistan - and so are our Partners and other countries who are engaged
with us in the country. We all know that our security depends on Afghanistan’s
security. And we all know that, if we want to win the war against terrorism, we
must first win the peace in Afghanistan.
Winning the peace in Afghanistan is a daunting challenge. It
will require strong determination on the part of the people of Afghanistan and
their political leaders. But it will also require a sustained and well co
ordinated commitment on the part of the international community. The NATO
Alliance will continue to play its part in that effort.