Tallinn, 26 May 2012 - IN AFGHANISTAN, NATO MUST CONTINUE TO FOLLOW THE PRINCIPLE “IN TOGETHER, OUT TOGETHER,” SAYS ESTONIA’S FOREIGN MINISTER
The military mission in Afghanistan has proved that NATO has an important role to play in providing security internationally and that the allies are capable of co-operation necessary for a large scale out-of-area operation, Estonian Foreign minister Urmas Paet told NATO parliamentarians on Saturday.
Although the military mission in Afghanistan has been challenging, the Alliance has been up to the task, ensuring the operation has contributed significantly to making the territory of the Alliance safer than ever, Paet said.
In his presentation “NATO after the Chicago Summit: Political Aspects” to the Political Committee of NATO, Parliamentary Assembly Paet explained Estonia’s views on four topics important for the Alliance’s future: Afghanistan, defense spending, deterrence and cyber security.
At the Chicago summit that closed on Monday, Alliance leaders confirmed their road map for the future of Afghanistan and agreed that in the summer of 2013 the Afghan Security Forces would take the lead responsibility for security across the country. Under the timetable, the NATO-led international force is due to end its combat mission by the end of 2014.
However, the foreign minister warned, “in together, out together” must be the principle for the 28 NATO allies continue to follow. “If a country pulls out its troops based solely on unilateral internal policy decisions, it raises operational risks for the remaining forces and can undermine the success of the overall operation”, said Paet.
France says it will pull its combat troops out of Afghanistan by the end of this year. Canada and the Netherlands have also withdrawn most of their troops over the past two years.
Paet assured lawmakers that Estonian troops will be staying in Afghanistan as long as they are needed and welcomed by the Afghan people. Estonia has 153 soldiers serving with the international force. After the end of NATO’s combat mission, Paet pledged Estonia will provide financing for the Afghan Security Forces of at least 500 000 USD annually from 2015-2017.
Despite international support, the success of the whole mission depends first and foremost on the actions of the Afghan government, he stressed, adding that more has to be done to fight corruption, strengthen democratic institutions, the rule of law, and human rights.
Other issues on Afghanistan were also discussed by NATO lawmakers during the Assembly’s Spring Session. The impact of the security transition on the counter narcotics efforts was debated in the Assembly’s Committee on the Civil Dimension of Security following a presentation from Jarrit Kamminga, Director of Policy Research, International Council on Security and Development.
Kamminga warned Afghanistan’s opium problem now is worse than in the start of the mission in 2002. However he said there are possibilities to boost counter narcotics efforts in a non-military environment after the 2014 when NATO winds down its mission. According to the speaker options include the program “Poppy for medicine”, boosting alternative livelihood programs and improved regional cooperation.
The Assembly’s Political Committee also discussed the wider regional context of the transition to Afghan security leadership, receiving a briefing from Brigadier-General Mike Jorgensen, Branch Head of the Joint Plans Branch at NATO’s Joint Force Command in Brunssum, Netherlands.