By Jim Garamone
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, Nov. 7, 2014 – NATO’s new secretary general visited Afghan and coalition special operations troops in Afghanistan and worked with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on the way ahead in the country.
Jens Stoltenberg, who took office as secretary general Oct. 1, told Afghan commandos at Camp Morehead yesterday that NATO will continue to stand with them when the International Security Assistance Force mission ends Dec. 31.
“We will begin a new training, advise and assist mission,” the secretary general said. “We will continue our efforts to ensure Afghanistan’s army and police remain strong.”
Much has been sacrificed over many years to give Afghanistan a chance to succeed, he noted. “We cannot, and we will not, allow these gains to be lost,” he said.
In the Afghan capital of Kabul, Stoltenberg complimented the president and Afghan Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah on their unity government. “You have both shown your commitment to a partnership on behalf of the Afghan people, and I salute your leadership,” he said.
Afghan People Are United
Ghani told Stoltenberg that the Afghan people are united.
“When we are united, and when we are determined to overcome obstacles, history has shown that nothing can prevent us,” the Afghan president said. “There are lots of small obstacles, but let me assure you of our capabilities. Afghanistan is here to endure, the way we’ve endured for 5,000 years. We are a people of psychological certitude. We know who we are and we are determined to be who we are; that we are also very much a people living in the 21st century.”
NATO has led a coalition of 50 nations in Afghanistan for more than a decade, Stoltenberg said. “Together, we have done what we set out to do,” he said. “Our nations are safer, and Afghanistan is stronger. We owe this to the courage and the sacrifice of our troops.”
The alliance has pursued international terrorists and ensured Afghanistan is not a haven for them. Afghan forces have had security responsibility for more than a year now, and they have secured two national elections and a national grand assembly. By any measure, Stoltenberg said, Afghan forces are succeeding.
But more remains to be done, the secretary general added. NATO’s Operation Resolute Support mission begins Jan. 1, and coalition forces will start a new mission to train, advise and assist Afghan forces, he said.
Stoltenberg called for quick work on legislative authorization on the status of forces agreements that will make that mission possible.
“The Afghan people have chosen the path of peace and democracy,” he said. “And I am here to confirm NATO’s continued commitment to stand with you.”