Can Afghanistan be saved?
An interview with NATO Secretary-General Anders Rasmussen.
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Oraibi: There has been much talk of having another international conference for Afghanistan. Is this what you think is necessary in order to launch a new international compact?Skip to next paragraph
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Rasmussen: I think so. A new international conference could be used as a platform for establishing this compact and to provide the necessary resources for development of the Afghan society – for this broader approach in which we not just focus on military efforts but much more also on civilian reconstruction and development. We need to reinforce the interaction between military security and civilian development.
Oraibi: What troops levels are necessary in Afghanistan to make this strategy a success?
Rasmussen: It's a bit too early to make final decisions on troop numbers, but I know already now that we will need more resources for our training mission. We have decided to establish a training mission, and we need to fully finance and equip it. Therefore, we need training money, so in that respect I know that we will need more resources.
I am happy to note that the NATO ministers of defense agreed recently with [top US commander in Afghanistan Gen. Stanley A.] McChrystal's counterinsurgency approach. So based on that, we will take the necessary decisions on resources at a later stage.
Oraibi: Pakistan is a huge element in stabilizing Afghanistan, and in recent weeks we've seen an escalation of attacks there. How much can you do to support Pakistan without having an actual presence there?
Rasumussen: I agree we have to look upon the region as a whole because many of the problems and challenges are interlinked. Definitely we cannot solve the problems in Afghanistan without stronger engagement of Pakistan.
First of all, I would like to commend the Pakistani government and military for their fight against terrorists in the border region that is really of utmost importance.
Next, I appreciate very much that we have already established a relationship and cooperation between Pakistan, Afghanistan, and [the] ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) within the framework of a trilateral commission, and we have also established border control centers in the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan. I think we will see further development of the cooperation in the coming years.
Having said that, I have to stress that, first and foremost, the responsibility for security in Pakistan lies with the Pakistani authorities themselves, of course, but we are ready to assist if there is a request from the Pakistani side.
Oraibi: As you are aware, there is some controversy linked to you in the Muslim world due to the cartoon crisis that was sparked off in Denmark while you were Danish prime minister. Has this incident affected your relations in dealing with Muslim countries?
Rasmussen: First of all, about the specific cartoon case, I consider it an element of the past. Now I look forward. I have the deepest respect for people's religious feelings; I'm also a strong believer in an open dialogue between religions and cultures with the aim to improve intercultural and interreligious understanding based on mutual respect.
So this is my point of departure. As new secretary-general of NATO, I have also made it one of my priorities to strengthen the partnerships and a number of Muslim countries within the framework of the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative and Mediterranean Dialogue.
My priorities are very clear; I have met with ambassadors from all these countries to discuss with them how we could carry our partnerships forward. I think I have an excellent platform for pursuing my goal of a strengthened partnership between NATO and Muslim countries.
Gen. Anders Fogh Rasmussen is the secretary-general of NATO and the former prime minister of Denmark. As part of the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative, Rasmussen is in Abu Dhabi this week to mobilize Arab support for the NATO effort in Afghanistan. Mina Al-Oraibi is the current affairs journalist for Asharq Alawsat Newspaper, an international, pan-Arab daily based in London.