June 17th, 2006 07:20 EST
NATO Reconfirms Afghanistan Expansion
NATO’s expanded security presence in Afghanistan must be matched by Afghan and international efforts to ensure that Afghan people enjoy the benefits of security, NATO’s Secretary General said at a meeting of Defence Ministers.
Meeting in Brussels on 8 June, Defence Ministers from 37 NATO and non-NATO countries reconfirmed plans to significantly increase the number of NATO-led peacekeepers in Afghanistan this summer and to move into the south of the country.
“We stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of Afghanistan , ” said NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, “Let no one doubt NATO’s resolve nor doubt our capability to carry out the mission.”
Not just a security story
The Secretary General stressed however that Afghanistan is “not just a security story”. He called for continuing support from international organizations and donors for Afghanistan.
“More resources are needed for reconstruction and development,” he said at the opening of the meeting, “To succeed in Afghanistan , the Government of Afghanistan, the United Nations, the EU, the G8 and others, including NGOs, must continue and enhance their efforts.”
“NATO will help to provide security, but that is only one leg of the stool,” he went on to tell reporters, saying that the others were the international community and the Afghan government, which “must take active steps to root out corruption, provide governance and build up the confidence of the Afghan people”.
This was the first ever meeting of NATO Defence Ministers and Defence Ministers from countries that contribute to NATO’s Afghanistan mission.
It underlined the importance that NATO and its partner countries attach to the operation.
Mr. De Hoop Scheffer acknowledged that the Alliance was being tested as it prepared to move into the “relatively ungoverned” south of the country.
But he said NATO had the forces, the capabilities and the robust rules of engagement it needed to assist the Government of Afghanistan in providing security for its people.
At present, the Alliance has some 9,000 troops providing security assistance in Kabul , the North and West of the country.
By summer this figures is set to rise to about 16,000, and will also see the Alliance taking on additional tasks such as mentoring Afghan army units.