By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
BRUSSELS, May 16, 2013 – The NATO defense chiefs are moving closer to determining what the post-2014 alliance posture in Afghanistan will look like, Danish Gen. Knud Bartels, the chairman of the Military Committee, said here yesterday.
The defense chiefs stressed the alliance will continue its strong support to Afghanistan well beyond the end of the International Security Assistance Force mission in December 2014.
The 28 NATO chiefs also discussed the situation in Kosovo, alliance relations with Russia, NATO transformation and more.
“As we approach the completion of the ISAF campaign, our mission in Afghanistan is entering a new phase,” Bartels said at the conclusion of the two-day meeting at NATO headquarters. “Its primary task is changing from leading a counterinsurgency campaign to providing training, advice and assistance to the Afghan National Security Forces, as they assume the lead for security across the country.”
NATO forces are already shifting responsibility for security to Afghan forces. Later this year, Afghan forces will be in the lead for security over most of the country.
The Afghan army and police continue to grow in capability, Bartels said.
“They are already in the lead across much of Afghanistan and their progress in the areas of planning, coordination, execution and sustaining large-scale operations is now evident,” he said. “Transition therefore remains on track and our assessment is on the whole, positive.”
The chiefs also made good progress on the concept of operations for the post-2014 mission, Resolute Support. They have recommendations for NATO and partner defense ministers when they meet in June.
NATO still has forces in Kosovo and the defense chiefs discussed the changes in the Balkans.
“We recognize a significant step towards normalizations in the relationship between Kosovo and Serbia, demonstrated by the recent agreement brokered by the European Union,” Bartels said. “We also reflected on its possible implication for [the Kosovo Force].”
The chiefs will discuss changes in KFOR when they next meet in Hungary in September. “NATO will continue to ensure a safe and secure environment throughout Kosovo,” Bartels said.
The chiefs support the ongoing cooperation between NATO and Russia through the 2013 Work Plan, and discussed new initiatives that could be part of the 2014 Work Plan.
“Throughout our discussions, we recognized the mutual benefits in a closer dialogue,” Bartels.
Bartels thanked Gen. Valery Gerasimov, the Russian chief of defense, for his personal engagement with NATO leaders. NATO leaders have extensively briefed Gerasimov on up-coming alliance exercises to test the NATO Response Force.
“In the months to come, we will continue to build with Russia on reciprocal transparency on military exercises, enhancing mutual understanding,” Bartels said.
The chiefs discussed NATO transformation and the need to preserve military capabilities while guarding hard-won interoperability.
“Defense spending across the alliance must be coherent, complementary and matched to future threats,” Bartels said. “As NATO’s operational tempo is expected to decrease after 2014, emphasis will be placed on training to maintain force readiness.”
Training together, he added, remains an alliance imperative.
“The NATO chiefs provided clear commitment and guidance to the NATO future training and exercises concept,” Bartels said. “The Military Committee also discussed a high visibility exercise -- due to take place in 2015 -- which will mark the shift in NATO’s operational focus and test our new command and force structures.”