View Full Version : NATO Chief Seeks Russia ‘Partnership’, support Afghan as long as It takes

08-03-2009, 07:31 PM
NATO Chief Seeks Russia ‘Partnership’
August 03, 2009
Agence France-Presse

Anders Fogh Rasmussen took the helm of NATO on Monday with a pledge to prevent Afghanistan from once more becoming the hub of international terrorism and to build a new strategic partnership with Russia.

On his first day in office, the former Danish prime minister laid out his priorities at a time when NATO is embroiled in its biggest ever mission and ties with Moscow are only just beginning to recover after last year's war in Georgia.

Around 100,000 foreign troops are currently stationed in Afghanistan to counter an insurgency by the Taliban against the government of President Hamid Karzai.

Speaking to reporters, the new secretary-general said that troops serving in NATO's mission would help prevent Afghanistan from "becoming again a grand central station of international terrorism."

The Islamist militia has stepped up its attacks in the countdown to national elections on August 20, their latest bombing killing 12 people on Monday in the western city of Herat.

Seventy-five foreign soldiers were killed last month according to the independent www.icasualties.org website, making July the deadliest month for troops since the US-led invasion in late 2001.

Rasmussen, who has a four-year term in office, said that the long-term goal was to "move forward concretely and visibly with transferring lead security responsibility in Afghanistan to the Afghans."

"I believe during my term Afghans must take over lead responsibility for security in most of their country," he said.

But any suggestion that such a strategy amounted to cut and run was pure propaganda, he added.

"Let me be clear. NATO must and will be there in support. Let no Taliban propaganda try to sell my message as a run for exit. It is not," he said.

"We will support the Afghan people as long as its takes."

In a weekend newspaper interview, the 56-year-old said that he would support dialogue with moderates within the Taliban.

The Islamist militia had ruled Afghanistan until late 2001 but it was toppled by US-led forces after it refused to hand over Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in the wake of the September 11 attacks in New York and Washington.

Rasmussen's comments about engaging with moderates echoed recent statements by the foreign ministers of France and Britain who have argued that it is time to engage with Taliban willing to renounce violence.

The Dane said that the upcoming elections -- which the Taliban is boycotting -- must be credible in the eyes of the Afghan population and that NATO was playing its part to ensure their success.

"We are transporting voting material all over the country and help candidates meet voters. We are providing security in support to the Afghan police and army," he said.

The new secretary-general, who is succeeding Dutch diplomat Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, will also have to help defrost relations with Russia, which has long bridled at the alliance's westwards expansion.

Ties between Moscow and the alliance further plummetted last August when Russia and NATO hopeful Georgia fought a brief war, although the two sides agreed in June to resume political and military cooperation.

Rasmussen said while disagreements remained with Russia, they should not be allowed to poison ties and there were many areas of common interest.

"I believe that during my term, we should develop a true strategic partnership. We should enhance practical cooperation in areas where we share security interests," he added, citing Afghanistan, counter-terrorism, piracy, and nuclear non-proliferation.

He said he regarded it as "a very important challenge to convince the Russian people and the Russian political leadership that NATO is really not an enemy of Russia, that NATO is not directed against Russia."

Rasmussen said that the war in Georgia had had "a very negative impact" and that "real differences" remained over the issue.

"But we cannot let our areas of dispute poison the whole relationship," he added.

08-03-2009, 11:45 PM

A partnership with Russia may look good on paper but I'm going to guess it would be a cluster fuck.

1. Russia doesn't go by the NATO handbook. I would think joint-ops would be hard considering Russia throws soldiers into a combat zone and prays for results.

2. Russia is known for screwing over and strong arming the local inhabitants. Afghan relations are rocky enough with civilian deaths mounting.