Defense Ministers from NATO’s 28 Allied countries began early this morning at NATO Headquarters in Brussels on the second and final day of the NATO Defense Ministers Meeting.
The day began with a meeting of the NATO-Georgia Commission (NGC). During this session, the NATO Defense Ministers met with their Georgian counterpart, Irakli Alasania, to discuss Georgia’s reform plans and further opportunities for cooperation. The Ministers also thanked Georgia for its significant contribution to NATO-led operations in Afghanistan.
NATO Defense Ministers were joined later in the morning by their counterparts from non-NATO ISAF-contributing nations to discuss the situation in Afghanistan. At this meeting, the Defense Ministers endorsed a detailed concept of operations for the new, NATO-led mission to train, advise, and assist the Afghan security forces after 2014. “That concept will guide our military experts as they finalize the plan in the course of the coming months,” said NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
In the afternoon, the Secretary General gave a press conference to outline some of the discussions during the two-day Ministerial. He highlighted progress made preparing for ISAF’s post- 2014 Afghanistan mission, where he pledged that the Afghans “will not stand alone. The international community has committed to support Afghanistan in the years to come.”
The Secretary General also gave a readout from the NGC meeting. “Georgia is a committed partner and the largest non-NATO contributor to ISAF,” he said. “It is a potential partner for our future Afghan mission and a country which aspires to join our Alliance.”
Shortly after the Secretary General spoke, Secretary Hagel took the stage to deliver his first press conference at NATO as U.S. Secretary of Defense. During his opening remarks, he spoke about the future of the alliance, noting that “NATO is as important today as it’s ever been, and as the world grows more complicated and interconnected, a strong, cohesive, and capable collective security alliance will be an essential component of helping preserve peace, stability, and freedom.”
Secretary Hagel also answered questions about plans for Afghanistan post-2014. “I laid out a firm commitment of the U.S. to go forward with being a framework nation in a post-2014 Afghanistan.
he said. “We will provide more personnel. We are looking at providing new expert professional assistance from contracting to fuel support — not just soldiers — as well as financial assistance. We intend to be there for the long haul.”
He also spoke about the Ministerial meeting the previous day on cyber security. “We all agreed that the alliance must do more to ensure that we respond to these growing, deadly threats to cyberspace,” he said. “We all must take meaningful action quickly and focus on several key NATO missions: defending the alliance networks and systems, developing cyber defense capabilities to support alliance missions, and preparing to defend member states from a destructive cyber attack that could lead to a loss of life or serious economic consequences.”
After his press conference, Secretary Hagel joined members of the U.S. Mission to NATO for a photograph, where he presented an award to Ambassador Ivo Daalder for his four years of service as U.S. Ambassador to NATO, ahead of his departure next month. Secretary Hagel noted that Ambassador Daalder’s time at NATO has involved participation in 20 NATO Ministerials, including 12 with Defense Secretaries Gates, Panetta, and Hagel.
Following the award presentation, Secretary Hagel and his entourage left NATO after concluding a useful and productive Ministerial!