Defence Minister attended NATO meeting
Bacho Akhalaia, Georgia’s Defence Minister attended the NATO Defence Ministerial Meeting of the North Atlantic Council (NAC) in NATO HQ, Brussels, on March 10-11. The meeting was opened by the NATO Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
The meeting was open to non-Nato ISAF-contribution nations, and saw defence ministers from across the Afghan mission discuss ways of securing stability in the war-torn country and outline plans for the future.
At the opening of the meeting, Rasmussen offered his condolences to the families and loved ones of the ISAF and Afghan soldiers who have been killed or injured in Afghanistan. He told those in attendance that it is thanks to the courage and selfless sacrifice of those who have lost their lives, that considerable progress has been achieved by the coalition forces: “We are putting great pressure on the insurgency and are taking away many of the safe havens that they have relied upon. This has helped to create a safer and more secure environment in many parts of Afghanistan. Our strategy is working”, declared Rasmussen. He thanked the Afghan national security forces for their close partnership and confirmed that they are ready to gradually assume the lead responsibility for the security of their nation and their people.
Minister of Defence of Georgia, Bacho Akhalaia also delivered speech at the meeting. Mr. Akhalaia briefed the audience on the state of Georgia’s participation in the operation and the country’s future plans in this regard. Georgia continues to be fully committed to ISAF mission with 929 highly professional soldiers currently deployed on the ground in Afghanistan. While addressing the audience, the Minister referred to prospects for future cooperation. He underscored the fact that the ISAF conference was taking place against a background of a period of transition within Afghanistan, and discussed the coalition’s preparation of Afghan national security forces: “As you know we are planning to send up to 20 artillery instructors to Afghanistan to assist the local military to be able to take control of the security situation on the ground.”
In an interview with the media, Grigol Mgaloblishvili, Georgian Ambassador to NATO, also underlined the importance of sending instructors to Afghanistan: “The decision to send an additional military contingent is very important. This spring, 11 instructors will be deployed in Afghanistan, and as for the [further 9 instructors] we are in the process of dealing with some technical details,” said the Ambassador.
The Defence Minister held individual meetings with his British, Bulgarian and other foreign colleagues within the framework of the Ministerial.
Participants at the meeting discussed the new security challenges arising from the situation in Libya and the longer-term prospects for the Middle East. In addition to this, the two-day ministerial meeting also saw a new concept on Cyber-Security approved by the delegation.
Ministers also took crucial steps towards the implementation of “Transition” - the process by which security responsibility for Afghanistan is being gradually transferred to Afghan leadership. As a result of the meeting, the Afghan government will now decide on the areas in which the transition program will be implemented. Transition will commence only once it has been approved by the Afghan government and announced by President Karzai.
The Ministers also discussed and agreed upon the principles by which Transition will be implemented. They emphasized the fact that Transition is not an event but a process, and that it signifies a gradual shift to a genuine supporting role as Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) capabilities develop. The Ministers, who were joined by Afghan Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak, welcomed the progress achieved with regard to the strengthening of the ANSF, who are increasingly taking the lead in joint operations. Ministers expressed their shared goal of seeing the ANSF take the lead and conduct security operations in all provinces by the end of 2014.