By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service
BRUSSELS, April 25, 2012 – The chairman of NATO’s military committee today reaffirmed the alliance’s commitment to Afghanistan in remarks opening a conference of defense chiefs at NATO headquarters here.
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is representing the United States in a series of meetings and forums at the two-day conference for the top military officers from member and partner nations.
Gen. Knud Bartels of the Danish army, the chairman of the alliance’s military committee, said NATO must continue the work laid out at the November 2010 summit in Lisbon, Portugal, where alliance members’ heads of state and other senior government officials agreed that Afghan forces would have security responsibility in Afghanistan by the end of 2014. The next summit, scheduled next month in Chicago, will set NATO’s course in Afghanistan beyond 2014.
“What is important now is that we must stay the course in accordance with the Lisbon strategy,” Bartels said. “In this respect, the Chicago summit provides an excellent platform on which NATO will express its commitment to Afghanistan’s future and commit to the delivery of sustainable success.”
Despite recent challenges, the general said, the plan remains on track.
“Our service men and women working alongside their partners in the Afghan national security forces continue to do a superb job,” he said. “Their personal sacrifice and commitment is a credit the nations of the coalition.”
Afghan forces increasingly are taking the lead and becoming more effective, Bartels said. They now lead 40 percent of all combat operations, he noted, and 50 percent of Afghanistan’s population lives in areas where Afghan security forces are responsible for security.
Afghan forces have demonstrated their effectiveness through challenging threats to security in recent months, including coordinated attacks April 15 in and around the Afghan capital of Kabul, the general added. This month alone, he said, 99 Afghan soldiers and police officers have been killed in action.
“Despite this sacrifice, we have grounds for optimism,” Bartels said. “We are increasingly seeing that the Afghan national security forces will prevail, and the enemy will see that the fight cannot be won -- not now or in the future. We can be cautiously optimistic that we are seeing clear evidence that the comparative advantage lies with the government of Afghanistan, its security forces and its people, and not with the Taliban.”
Dempsey is participating in the conference during his third stop on an overseas trip that has included visits to Jordan and Afghanistan.