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Rasmussen: "We will prevail in Afghanistan"


Rasmussen: "We will prevail in Afghanistan"


The newly-appointed NATO Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, faces the crucial task of tackling the Taliban insurgency across Afghanistan and Pakistan. The former Danish prime minister must also coordinate efforts to adapt the alliance, and the policies of its members, to the so-called “Afghan surge”, as demanded by the new US administration.

Euronews: Aren’t you worried about the situation in Afghanistan? The violence is growing there, despite the electoral process and there are many difficulties for NATO’s troops. Rasmussen: The security situation in Afghanistan is not satisfactory and we have to do more. We have to step up our endeavours militarily, as well as in the area of civil reconstruction, and in particular, we should further develop the capacity of the Afghan security forces. Euronews: The “Afghanisation” of the conflict is like the “Vietnamisation” of the conflict. And aren’t you afraid that Afghanistan will turn into a sort of military failure, a political failure, for Nato, for the US as well, as it happened in Vietnam more than thirty years ago? Rasmussen: No, you can’t compare, and we will prevail in Afghanistan. We will do what it takes to succeed. We will stay as long as it takes to secure the country. We cannot afford Afghanistan once again to become a safe haven for terrorists. Euronews: But there are many alarming reports coming from US militaries also, saying that the situation is deteriorating there… Rasmussen: From a military point of view we should expand the Afghan national security forces. We should train and educate more Afghan soldiers. And that’s exactly at the core of what we will do in the coming months: establish a training mission, and we have now started the process of force generation. I urge all allies to provide trainers and resources for this training mission. Euronews: But don’t you think that the problem is in the current Afghan government, current afghan institution, that are not working as they should? Karzai, for instance, needs the support of some warlords, like Dostum. Rasmussen: Afghanistan must of course abide by international conventions and live up to her international obligations, including respect, human rights. But first and foremost we are in Afghanistan to improve security, also our own security, because if the Taliban again get rooted in Afghanistan then there is a clear risk that terrorism will spread quickly through Central Asia and further. Euronews: Do you think that Russia could be engaged in resolving these problems in Afghanistan? Rasmussen: Yes, but we already cooperate with Russia and we appreciate very much that Russia has accepted transit routes to facilitate ISAF needs, and I would not exclude the possibility that Russia could contribute to higher degree in the future. Euronews: How, what kind of contribution do you … could you expect from Russia? Rasmussen: Yes, but it very much depends on Russia itself and the Afghan parts. As I pointed out before, we need more trainers to expand the capacity of the Afghan security forces. Euronews: The idea of stopping the development of the anti-missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic, do you think that this is an idea of the US in order to try to engage Russia in other areas like Afghanistan? Rasmussen: I do not know about details in the American considerations. I would expect the Americans to make a thorough analysis of what is needed to protect the US and Europe appropriately against missile attacks. As far as Russia is concerned I’m strongly in favour of full transparency and also engagement of Russia in the missile defence, because at the end of the day we share security threats, interests and concerns with the Russians. Euronews: This is a new approach vis-à-vis Russia; something has changed… Rasmussen: Yes, I think we should focus much more on practical cooperation in areas in which we share security concerns with the Russians. Take terrorism as one example: Russia has recently experienced a terror attack herself, Russia knows what terror is about. I think counter-terrorism is one obvious area in which we should embark on practical cooperation with Russia. Let me take Afghanistan as another example in the same context. Non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is also an area of common interest and, finally, counter-piracy could also be mentioned. I think we should focus on practical cooperation within these areas, while at the same time of course holding Russia responsible to her international obligations, including respect for her neighbours’ political freedom and territorial integrity. Euronews: You are talking about Georgia I suppose and also Ukraine? Rasmussen: Yes, well I think it’s a basic principle that each sovereign country has a right to decide alliance affiliations themselves. I think it’s a basic principle and we should stick to that. Euronews: Establishing this principle you are saying that Ukraine and Georgia, will may be one day, if they wish, apply to become NATO members; but don’t you think that this could upset Russia and be an obstacle in order to have a plain good relation between NATO and Russia? Rasmussen: No, it’s a premature discussion. It’s also a bit of a hypothetical question right now. But it’s no surprise that the NATO summit in Bucharest in 2008 decided that Georgia and Ukraine will become members of NATO, provided that they fulfil the necessary criteria. They don’t, right now, and this is the reason why NATO has decided to initiate a practical cooperation with the two countries, and let’s see what happens in the future.

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