The challenges facing NATO are arguably the biggest in the organisation’s 63-year history. It’s problems aren’t just in Afghanistan – keeping NATO relevant for the future, when defence budgets are being cut and Washington’s attentions are increasingly focusing on Asia won’t be easy.
Euronews’ Paul Hackett spoke to Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Secretary General of NATO, about these key issues at the alliance’s summit in Chicago.
He began by asking how confident he was that Afghan forces will be able to maintain security after 2014?
Anders Fogh Rasmussen: “I am very confident. I had an opportunity to observe Afghan special operation forces in action some weeks ago when I visited Kabul. I was very impressed so I feel sure that the Afghan security forces will be able to take full responsibility for the security be the end of 2014 when we have handed over responsibility.”
Euronews: “Even when most experts don’t think that Afghan forces will be ready. The US military for example says for the moment only 18 battalions out of nearly 300 Afghan battalions in the Afghan army are ready for combat operations.”
Anders Fogh Rasmussen: “This is also the reason why we will continue to support the Afghan security forces. Also after 2014, we will train, assist, give advice, but the fact is that already now the Afghan security forces take the lead of around 40 percent of all our security operations. And recently we have seen them handle security challenges in quite a professional manner so I am confident that they can take full responsibility.”
Euronews: “Who is going to pay for this after 2014? Who is going to pay the bill for the Afghan army?”
Anders Fogh Rasmussen: “I think the price to pay if we did not ensure a high capability of the Afghan security forces would be even higher. Security is priceless. But our planning assumption is around 4 billion US dollars a year. And I would expect NATO allies and ISAF partners to pay their fair share. This summit is not a pledging conference but nevertheless we have already seen a number of concrete announcements and based on that I am very optimistic about fundraising for the Afghan security forces.”
Euronews: “How optimistic are you that all NATO partners will remain in Afghanistan until 2014?”
Anders Fogh Rasmussen: “I am quite confident.”
Euronews: “Even France? Francois Hollande says he wants to pull them out immediately.”
Anders Fogh Rasmussen: “Yes, but that’s what he pledged during his election campaign of course he has to keep his pledges. But I have also noted that he has declared preparedness to continue to support Afghanistan in a different way and that is.”
Euronews: “What do you mean exactly?”
Anders Fogh Rasmussen: “We will discuss that with President Hollande. We meet him tomorrow. Let me stress that it is in full accordance with our strategy to gradually hand over responsibility to the Afghans, that as we do that our troops will take a step back. We can withdraw some of the troops, we can change the role from combat to more and more support, it’s not in contradiction with our strategy, it’s actually a part of our strategy.”