We, the Defence Ministers of the troop-contributing nations in ISAF’s Regional Command North (RC North), have met again today to discuss the present situation in northern Afghanistan and the prospects for the future of the region. The discussion focused on the joint action we intend to take until the lead for security responsibility has been completely transferred to the Afghan National Security Forces and the ISAF forces have redeployed, by the end of 2014. It picked up on the deliberations earlier today between the Defence Ministers of all the nations contributing troops to ISAF. We have particularly exchanged our views on the challenges ahead of us, the need for continued intensive monitoring of the transition process and the requirement to achieve full, timely and trustful agreement on the redeployment of our ISAF forces.
The redeployment of the ISAF forces in RC North should be synchronized with the operational needs and conditions on the ground to prevent a reverse in the overall security situation and avoid any capability gaps. Together, we reaffirm our resolve to continue our joint commitment so as to consolidate what we achieve by end of 2014 and to carry it over into self-supporting structures.
As it was underlined in the past International Conferences on Afghanistan held in Istanbul, Bonn, Kabul and Tokyo as well as in NATO’s Chicago Summit, we also recognise in this context the importance of a comprehensive approach and continued improvements in governance and development. We remain committed to help overcome the challenges on the way to achieving stability, peace and a self-reliant economy in Afghanistan, including northern provinces. We reiterate our strong belief that enhanced stability and security will enable an environment conducive for sustainable growth and development, thus contributing to the peace, well-being and prosperity of the Afghan People.
We are pleased that the trend of improvement that has emerged in Afghanistan has continued since our last meeting. The security situation has generally improved, even if isolated security incidents that have caught the attention of the media highlight the challenges ahead. The development of the Afghan National Security Forces has so far proceeded as planned and meanwhile they assumed security responsibility for 76 per cent of the Afghan population and all the provincial capitals. The responsibility for providing security has already been handed over to the local authorties on most of key territories within the Regional Command’s North Area of Operations. Support for this process must continue to achieve full security responsibility across Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
The conditions for this have been created in recent months by the international community together with our Afghan partners. The agreements that the international community reached with Afghanistan at the international Afghanistan Conference in Bonn on 5 December 2011 are being implemented NATO nations reaffirmed at the summit in Chicago that the NATO-led combat mission will end late 2014. They also expressed their enduring commitment to Afghan security beyond 2014 and agreed to work towards establishing a new training, advising and assistance mission. The willingness of the regional players to make a contribution towards the building of a peaceful and stable future for Afghanistan was underlined at the second Heart of Asia Ministerial Conference held in Kabul on 14 June 2012. Finally, at the Tokyo conference on 8 July 2012, the international community committed itself, under certain conditions, to support financially the development efforts of Afghanistan towards its self-reliance during the Transformation Decade (2015 – 2024).
Our concern must now be to fill in this framework and infuse it with life by getting the international community and the people in Afghanistan to work together. For this, we place our trust not least in the outstanding achievements of our servicemen and women. The commitment they have shown so far deserves our highest recognition and support. They are making a key contribution towards the achievement of the aims by end 2014.
However, despite all the progress that has been made, one thing is clear: Afghanistan will also need the continued support of the international community beyond 2014. We acknowledge this responsibility we have. Unlike the ISAF mission, the new NATO-led mission in Afghanistan that is intended to commence in 2015 will not be a combat mission focused on direct military support in providing stability. The focus of this mission will rather be on consolidating and improving what has been achieved during the last few years by providing further training, advice and assistance to the Afghan authorities. We also emphasize the importance of full participation of our Afghan partners in this shared commitment.
The transition process to date permits the initiation of the first responsible steps towards downsizing the international force. We share the view that this should be closely coordinated, with all the countries involved, informing one another at an early stage of all the steps to take, including the lines of communication to be used, so that the operational capability of the ISAF forces is maintained while supporting the Afghan National Security Forces until late 2014. Another priority will be to enable the NATO-led training, advisory and assistance mission to take up successfully its demanding job from 2015 towards.