Press Availability at NATO Headquarters

Marc Grossman
Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan 
Brussels, Belgium
March 23, 2012

Ambassador to NATO Ivo Daalder: Good morning. It’s my great pleasure to have Ambassador Marc Grossman, the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan for the United States. He is on a tour through Europe and other places to discuss Afghanistan issues related to the summit in two months’ time. He just came back from a meeting with our NATO colleagues and our ISAF colleagues where we had a very good discussion on all the issues that relate to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

With that, let me give the floor to Ambassador Grossman.

Ambassador Grossman: Thank you very much. Thank you all very much for coming out.

First if I could just thank Ambassador Daalder for the hospitality that we’ve been shown, and I’d also just say I appreciate all the effort that you and everyone in your mission does to secure our country.

As the ambassador said, I’ve been since Monday on a trip that’s taken me so far to a number of countries in Europe, NATO partners, ISAF partners. My message has been that we have made tremendous progress in Afghanistan over these past ten years at very high cost to us, to friends and allies, and of course to Afghans.

As you look back over the past few months going into 2012, there have been a series of events which all work together to answer the question about how best to protect what we’ve accomplished over the past ten years. By those I mean Lisbon, the meeting in Istanbul last November, the meeting in Bonn last December, Chicago obviously, and then Tokyo.

I start, as I did with our colleagues at the North Atlantic Council and ISAF, to say that it’s very important to return to the basic documents, the basic vision, the basic understanding at Lisbon. That is that there is going to be a transition to Afghan lead in security by 2014. The United States stands committed, as you know, to that Lisbon position, to the commitment that we made there, and I was very happy to hear from the ambassadors around the table how much we value the work that was done in Lisbon [inaudible].

We had a chance a little bit to talk during our meeting today about the importance of the region in terms of an Afghanistan that’s secure, stable, and prosperous inside of a secure, stable, and prosperous region, and that goes back to the very good work that was done in Istanbul last November, to a vision of the future in Afghanistan, the work done in Bonn last December – what it [Afghanistan] could look like, what it can be like. The [inaudible] requirements between the international community and our friends in Afghanistan. We’re looking forward, as the ambassador said, to Chicago and to Tokyo.

I took the opportunity today to make a special point about Chicago. While there will be many important things discussed there, I tried to focus some of my attention today and the conversation and the [inaudible] that we had on the need to have sufficient and sustainable Afghan National Security Forces. I tried to argue to colleagues just now that if you look at all the pieces of our effort in Afghanistan they will much more likely be successful if there is a sufficient and sustainable Afghan National Security Force.

We were here [inaudible] for a real consultation. Decisions of course on numbers, funding will be made by heads of state and governments in Chicago. But we came here for a consultation today to talk about this issue, to hear from our allies and partners, and to take very much into account their views.

It’s my honor to be back here today. Hopefully we had a real consultation, I believe we did, and I’d be very glad to answer any questions anybody might have.

Media: [Inaudible] Pakistan actually demanded unconditional authority on the [inaudible] for [inaudible] and to [inaudible] open [inaudible] NATO. What is your view and where are we on the tension between U.S. and Pakistan? It’s very important today for Pakistan in particular.

Ambassador Grossman: Thank you very much for your question. Of course Pakistan is an important part of this whole conversation. When I think of Afghanistan as secure, stable, and prosperous inside a secure, stable, and prosperous region, that very much applies to Pakistan as well. A number of ambassadors raised the point today about the importance of Pakistan, for example, in the reconciliation process and the support for an Afghan peace process.

As it relates to U.S.-Pakistan relations, I’d say this: That obviously what happened last November was a terrible tragedy. I think everyone has expressed condolences that we have for the families in every way possible.

What we’ve tried to do since then is to respect the Pakistani parliament and the time it has taken to debate U.S.-Pakistan relations, to consider how it should go forward. I for one expressed my respect for that parliament, for the civilian consideration of the future of U.S.-Pakistan relations, and I also respect the amount of time it has taken. This is a hard question and the Pakistani parliament through its National Security Committee has worked on this January, February, March; [it] reported on Monday, the 20th, more debate next [Monday] on the 26th. All this seems to me to be something that we should respect.

When the parliament completes its debate it will of course report to the Pakistani government and give its recommendations to the Pakistani government. And when that happens we’ll then be in a conversation with the government of Pakistan on how to move forward. But as I say, we give great respect to the work that parliament has done.

Media: You said that everyone is committed to the Lisbon agreement, so there’s no modification in the withdrawal [inaudible] to be expected.

Ambassador Grossman: Certainly not that I’ve heard today. Our position is really clear, which is that we are firmly committed to the Lisbon decision and as you know, we’re withdrawing the surge which will bring us to 68,000 forces in September. But there’s no decision after that. I think Lisbon will define all of our considerations.

Media: We’ve heard reports that the U.S. is seeking $1.3 billion from European allies to fund the post 2014 Afghan National Security Forces. Is that correct? And how close are you to reaching that?

Ambassador Grossman: Two things. First, I think it’s very important as we go forward with the Afghan National Security Forces that everybody does their part, and that includes the Afghans, it includes our ISAF partners, the United States, and may I just say other countries as well who have an interest in a secure, stable, and prosperous Afghanistan.

So as I say, we’re consulting on the total number and then trying to figure out how that number gets divided up.

I think it’s no secret that Secretary Gates and now Secretary Panetta gave a challenge to our ISAF partners. The question is how will we meet that challenge.

So this is a consultation. The numbers will be decided, as I said, in Chicago by the heads of state of government. But what I heard around the table here today was a real commitment to supporting a sufficient and sustainable Afghan National Security Force.

Thank you all very much.