NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai, in Kabul, April 12, 2012

From Anders Fogh Rasmussen, NATO:  We are on track to reach the goal we set together with you, Mr President [Hamid Karzai], in Lisbon: an Afghanistan with Afghans fully in charge of their own security by the end of 2014. That goal remains unchanged. Our timetable remains unchanged. And our commitment to our partnership with the Afghan people beyond 2014, remains strong.

We have very good reasons to be confident in the future. The thousands of brave and dedicated Afghans who are working, training, and fighting every day with ISAF troops. And infact earlier  today, I saw Afghan special forces in training. And I can tell you Mr. President, you can be very proud of them.

Every day, Afghan security forces are becoming stronger and more capable. They participate in all ISAF special operations and increasingly they are also taking the lead. They have taken the lead in forty percent of all conventional operations. They have the security lead for areas where fifty percent of Afghans live. And I hope that we will soon see them take the lead for more districts and provinces. Because we are all working towards the same goal: a stable and peaceful Afghanistan, which can never again become a safe haven for terrorists.

Five weeks from now, we will meet again in Chicago. Together with the leaders of the 50 members of our ISAF coalition – infact one quarter of the world’s nations –  we will map out the next phase of transition. As Afghan forces step forward to take the lead for security across the country, ISAF will move into a supporting role, but we will remain ready and able to conduct combat operations when necessary. 

But our support will not end in 2014. In Chicago, we will agree how NATO will provide the training, assistance and support that your security forces need once transition is complete. And we will play our part in providing the necessary funding to keep those forces strong. 

And let me be clear: NATO is here as Afghanistan’s partner for the long term. That is our message to the people of Afghanistan, to the enemies of Afghanistan, and also to Afghanistan’s neighbours. 

Excerpt from opening statement by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the press conference with President Hamid Karzai in Kabul, Afghanistan.  (photo: NATO)