We must "we strive to keep NATO fit for the future after ISAF"

From Andres Fogh Rasmussen, NATO:  For eleven years, the International Security Assistance Force has carried out its responsibilities. Our troops, our nations, and the whole international community have made an unprecedented investment in blood and treasure in Afghanistan. So I want to answer the question that we all face, as politicians: Have our efforts been worth the cost?

My short answer is yes. And my long answer is absolutely yes.

Remember. In 2001, Afghanistan was used as a launching pad by international terrorists to devastating effect. That launching pad is no more. And the threat to our nations has been reduced. So we have made real and tangible progress.

NATO’s job is not to build a perfect state. We went to Afghanistan to protect our security by helping Afghans take control of their own security. And that is what we are doing, as requested by the Afghan government and mandated by the United Nations.

ISAF is the biggest coalition in recent history. And our support for the development of the Afghan security forces is without parallel. We have provided the resources, the skills, and the time for them to grow. Soon, thanks to our shared efforts, transition to Afghan security responsibility will reach a significant milestone. And our shared goal is within reach. . . .

Afghan soldiers and police now have the lead for the security of 87% of the population. They deliver up to 90% of their own training. And they lead 95% of all operations. . . .

As you know we agreed at the Chicago summit last year, to establish a new and different mission. A mission to train, advise and assist the Afghan security forces after 2014. A mission that will be smaller in scope and size than our current mission. Several Allies and Partners have already announced their intent to contribute. I welcome and appreciate those announcements. And I expect others in due course. . . .

With our support, Afghanistan has already come a long way. It is a different country from what it was in the dark days of the Taliban.

Under the Taliban, a country the size of France had only 49 kilometers of built roads. Now, it has over thirty-two thousand.

Under the Taliban, the economy failed to function. Now Afghan Gross Domestic Product is expanding at over 7% a year. Seventy percent of Afghans use a mobile phone and millions use the internet.

Under the Taliban, only a million boys received any form of education. Now more than eight million children attend school. Over a third of them are girls.

And according to the United Nations’ latest Human Development report, during the last 12 years, Afghanistan achieved the fastest growth in South Asia in the combined areas of health, education and living standards. Maternal mortality is going down, life expectancy is rising. . . .

All this has been achieved at a great cost. We owe a huge debt of thanks to the brave troops of all the 50 countries who are part of ISAF. And to their families and loved ones. Their sacrifices and their efforts have not been in vain.

They have made all our nations more secure. And they have made our Alliance stronger. We now have the most capable, deployable, and flexible forces in history. We must continue to build on their experience. And on the lessons that we have learnt in Afghanistan, among Allies and with our partners, as we strive to keep NATO fit for the future after ISAF.

Excerpt from speech by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, Luxemburg.  (photo: NATO)