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Anders Fogh Rasmussen

Anders Fogh Rasmussen

Posted: December 2, 2009 10:38 AM

Last night, President Obama confirmed that we cannot have security at home until terrorism is defeated in Afghanistan. He expressed the determination of the United States to reach a successful conclusion. And he backed up those words by committing a substantial number of troops and by setting a clear political and military strategy for success.

I congratulate President Obama on his strategic vision. But as he noted, this is not just America's war. Violent extremism in Afghanistan poses a clear and present danger both to every citizen in the Alliance, and to many citizens elsewhere. Terrorism inspired by al-Qaeda has already struck our metros and train stations. Even now, drugs sold to finance terrorism end up in our schools and back alleys, and kill 100,000 people every year. Instability in Afghanistan means insecurity for us all.

If we are to make Afghanistan more stable, and ourselves more secure, we must show that our multilateral Alliance can deliver concrete results. At this important moment, NATO must demonstrate its unity and its strength once again. This is our fight, and together we must finish it.

I have spent the past weeks speaking with NATO leaders, and I can confirm that both allies and troop-contributing partner countries will step up to the plate. In 2010, the non-US members of this mission will contribute at least 5,000 more soldiers and possibly several thousand more to this operation, on top of the 38,000 already there. Our strategy is clear: we must transfer lead responsibility to the Afghans for running their own country as soon as this can be done.

Where Afghan forces take the lead, our forces will move into a supporting role. By doing so, we will make the transition to Afghan lead responsibility a reality. When the Afghan people and citizens in troop-contributing nations observe this transition in action early next year, they will see real progress.

We must also expect more from the new Afghan Government. Corruption is the oxygen that the Taliban breathes to survive, and good governance is the best way to extinguish extremism's appeal. President Karzai has made clear and welcome statements in this regard, but more remains to be done.

In sum, this week marks the beginning of a new phase in our mission. In 2010, there will be substantially more forces on the ground, and they will focus on defending the Afghan people. We will start handing over lead security responsibility to Afghan forces, district by district, where conditions allow. The Afghan Government will undertake clear measures to increase its legitimacy. There will be more development assistance, starting with five billion dollars pledged by Japan. And the civilian side of the effort will be stepped up as well, not least through a European Union Action Plan.

As President Obama said last night: "This is no idle danger; no hypothetical threat." A resurgent Taliban now threatens the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan. If extremists were to gain control of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, the likely result is too horrific to contemplate, and far too dangerous to allow.

The Afghans have already made clear that they desire a safe, tolerant and democratic future for their country. With this decisive effort, we can help them achieve it. Having come this far, and having sacrificed so much, we must not falter before reaching the finish line.


I encourage you to visit our web site (www.nato.int) and my blog (andersfogh.info) to find out more.