NATO launches clear-eyed assessment on Afghanistan war

F.P. Report

BRUSSELS: NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg introduced the agenda of this week’s in-person meetings of NATO Defence Ministers in a press conference on Wednesday (20 October 2021). Ministers will take decisions to strengthen our collective security and lay the ground for NATO Summit in Madrid next June.

They will also take steps to keep the Alliance’s technological edge and continue to assess how we can further strengthen our deterrence and defence. Furthermore, they will discuss Afghanistan with the aim to ensure that terrorists cannot use Afghanistan as a safe haven; and they will meet with the Alliance’s partners Finland and Sweden, and the European Union, to discuss what more we can do together in an age of global competition.

This week, allies will launch the NATO Innovation Fund. I expect this multinational fund to invest one billion euros. The fund will support the development of dual-use emerging and disruptive technologies, in key areas for Allied security.

At our summit in Brussels last June, we took the decision to establish a Defence Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic – or DIANA.

We are making good progress. It will have headquarters in both Europe and North America, with a network of test centres and accelerator sites to harness civilian innovation for our security.
Many Allies have made offers to host these facilities and some of them will be in place next year.
We will also agree our first-ever strategy on artificial intelligence.

In order to integrate it in areas such as data analysis, imagery, and cyber defence.
And to set out the principles of safe and responsible use, in accordance with international law.
Earlier this week, Russia announced the closure of its mission to NATO, and of our offices in Moscow.

We regret this decision, which does not promote dialogue and mutual understanding.
But NATO’s policy remains consistent, and we remain open to dialogue, including through the NATO Russia Council. At the same time, we will continue to assess how we can further strengthen our deterrence and defence.

We will ensure we have the right plans, capabilities and forces in place to protect our nations.
We will also review progress in our response to the challenge from Russia’s nuclear capable missile systems.

In 2018, NATO Allies determined that Russia had developed and deployed missiles in breach of the INF Treaty, which led to the demise of the treaty.

And since then, Russia has further increased its arsenal of missiles, and is developing hypersonic systems. These missiles pose a real threat to security in the Euro Atlantic area.

We will not mirror Russia’s actions. But we will maintain strong deterrence and defence.
Ministers will also meet in the Nuclear Planning Group format. They will consult on how to keep our nuclear deterrent safe, secure and effective, while remaining committed to arms control.
NATO’s goal is a world without nuclear weapons. But we do not believe in unilateral disarmament.

A world where Russia, China, and other countries like North Korea, have nuclear weapons, but NATO does not, is simply not a safer world. On October 18, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced the suspension of the mission to NATO.

In addition, the department said that the activities of the information bureau of the alliance and its military mission in Moscow are being terminated. Further contacts with NATO will go through the Russian ambassador to Belgium.

This decision was a response to the withdrawal of accreditation from eight employees of the Russian permanent mission to NATO. Tomorrow, we will discuss Afghanistan, and how we can ensure terrorists cannot use Afghanistan as a safe haven.

Allies have the capabilities to strike from far away against terrorist threats. We will also hold the Taliban accountable for their commitments on terrorism, human rights and safe passage.

And the international community has economic and diplomatic leverage over the Taliban. It is important that we reflect on our efforts in Afghanistan over the years. We have launched a thorough and clear-eyed assessment.

And tomorrow, ministers will also have a first opportunity to engage on the lessons learned process. Looking ahead, we must continue to stand together in the fight against international terrorism. And in the margins of this ministerial, we will hold a meeting of the Global Coalition to Defeat Daesh.

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