Press Availability with Danish Defense Minister Haekkerup

Marc Grossman
Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan 
Copenhagen, Denmark
April 23, 2012

Minister Haekkerup: Out of respect for the ambassador, I’ll try to do this in English. We had a very good meeting. We have confirmed the wish for moving forward in Afghanistan according to the Lisbon [Summit] and we have talked about some of the issues, some of the [inaudible] but also agreed that the process is moving in the right direction and we should, in the summit in Chicago, we may be able to have some additional steps in the right direction as far as Afghanistan is concerned. So a very good meeting, a good relationship also between Denmark and the U.S.

Ambassador Grossman: Minister, thank you very much, and thank you all for coming. May I first of all thank the Minister and all of his colleagues for the hospitality we’ve been shown this morning, and I thank the whole Government of Denmark for the hospitality we’ve been shown today.

As the Minister said, I came this morning to consult with him about the future of Afghanistan. I started out by thanking the Minister and through him, the people and Government of Denmark, for all the effort and sacrifice that’s been made by the Danish people and Danish forces in Afghanistan over these many years.

I also came here today to thank the Minister and his colleagues and the people of the Foreign Ministry for the effort that Denmark is making to lead what’s called the 3C effort to support adequate funding for the Afghan National Security Forces. This is a very important effort that Denmark is making that the United States is proud to support.

As the Minister said, the important thing that we started with was the commitment of both of our countries and all of our NATO allies to Lisbon and the future going forward as defined by the Lisbon document in 2010. We had last week a very important meeting at NATO, a jumbo ministerial of foreign ministers and defense ministers, and then we look forward also to the NATO Summit in Chicago.

As the Minister said, these are very important days to set up the future of Afghanistan and I’m very pleased to be here and join him in this consultation.

Question: A question to both of you. Mr. Hollande seems to be the new President in France and he wants to take out the French troops this year. Are you disappointed about this move?

Minister Haekkerup: As I have understood Mr. Hollande, his point is that he will stick to the transformation plan that is there, changing from combat troops to training and enablers, and so on and so forth. I think that was his main point of view.

Question: Not to withdraw the troops but to speed up --

Minister Haekkerup: I understand him as withdrawal of the combat troops as well as Denmark is doing, but not stopping the training and support that is taking place.

Question: And the Danish timetable for withdrawal is unchanged?

Minister Haekkerup: That’s unchanged. And as the ambassador said, one of the things that we are discussing right now is how to fund and how to stay in Afghanistan past 2014, 2015 and forward where we had two big issues. The one is how to finance the ANSF in the years to come, and the other one is what kind of [inaudible] report will be needed and asked for by France and Denmark, which could be troop transport, carriers, helicopters, and so on.

Question: There were comments from the Australian government about an earlier withdrawal. Do you have any comments on that?

Minister Haekkerup: I had an opportunity to talk to the Australian Minister of Defense in NATO last week, and he said that there was no change in the plan. The change that has been planned for, namely changing from combat troops to training enablers and so on, and I think we have seen over the last couple of months a couple of situations where doing what we have agreed on doing, changing our way forward, painting a picture in some media that the people are [inaudible], but actually they are sticking to the plan.

Ambassador Grossman: I think the Minister makes an extremely important point, which is that all of the questions about what happens in 2013 are all about the success of Lisbon. If you look back at the Lisbon document, what does it say? It foresees that there will be a milestone in 2013 where the Government of Afghanistan will control 100 percent of Afghanistan in terms of its security forces and that it’s only natural that forces like Danish forces, American forces, and others would change their role in 2013. So I think all of this shows the success of Lisbon rather than anything else.

Might I also just make the very important point that the Minister made, which is this effort to sustain a sufficient number of ANSF going on to the future. Again, I just want to pay tribute to the effort that Denmark is making in this 3C initiative.

Question: What could go wrong in the process up to 2014? The worst-case scenario. [Laughter].

Ambassador Grossman: Now there’s a media question. Any number of things, obviously. But here’s what I think: to the extent that we follow the Lisbon commitment, to the extent that we fund a sustainable and sufficient ANSF, to the extent that we stick together as Denmark and the United States do, along with our other partners, our chances of success in 2014 and beyond go up. And to the extent that you don’t do those things, our chances of success go down. So the Afghans, obviously, have the first responsibility here, but we have a very large part in helping them succeed, and that’s what we want to do.

Minister Haekkerup: I think we should all remember that being in Afghanistan is being in a very, very poor country, not in any way similar to the Western countries, not to the U.S. There are challenges and there will be, also in the years to come, challenges. I think we must also expect that there, in different areas, will be setbacks. But those [inaudible] should not refrain us from sticking to the Lisbon plan and moving forward, even though that sometimes is hard.

Question: Can you guarantee, Minister, that the Danish troops have been withdrawn by 2014?

Minister Haekkerup: Even though I haven’t been Minister for that long I’ve learned that guaranteeing is something that we should be very careful about. But the plan is, and we will stick to it, that the Danish combat troops will be out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

Question: But this plan depends on if you can, so to speak, gather all this money for the Afghan Army. Do you expect to see NATO member countries in the Chicago Summit to come up with very concrete pledges?

Ambassador Grossman: Yes, we do. If the Minister would allow me, I think there are two issues here. Number one is, finding the number of Afghan National Security Forces that’s sufficient. I think as you saw at the jumbo ministerial, and very importantly from statements of the Government of Afghanistan, people are coming to recognize that a sufficient number of Afghan National Security Forces is in the neighborhood of 230,000, looking past 2015.

So what’s it going to take to provide the money for those? We expect that that money is around $4.1 billion. As you know, because they made the commitment to the Government of Denmark, the Government of Afghanistan is committed to $500 million of that amount of money. We have asked our ISAF partners to come up with a billion euro, $1.3 billion, and then the United States and other countries will then meet the commitment from that amount of money off of the $4.1 billion.

So I think as you saw with defense ministers and foreign ministers in Brussels last week, some people have already begun to make commitments and I think by Chicago that you’re going to hear many more as well.

So by Chicago, publics in the United States, in Denmark, and around the world will be able to understand that we will have a plan to cover a sufficient number of Afghan National Security Forces, and that they will be sustainable.

Question: Finally, according to BBC there is now a deal between the U.S. and the Afghan government about a partnership.

Ambassador Grossman: We’ve been working for a very long time --

Question: Yeah, I know that. There have been no details, but experts say that this deal is actually counterproductive, if you want to deal with Taliban. Because they don’t want U.S. after 2014.

Ambassador Grossman: First of all, let me just say that we’re very pleased that U.S. and Afghan negotiators have mostly completed the negotiation on the Strategic Partnership document. There are now some legal processes to do both in the United States and Afghanistan, you’ll understand, before such a document can be signed which I hope will be sometime before Chicago.

Once this document is signed then what people will have to do is look at it and react to it. That’s true of the regional countries. It’s true of people in Afghanistan. It’s very true as you say about the Taliban.

I think what people will recognize is, number one, that it shows a commitment of the United States of America to Afghanistan after 2014. It shows that that commitment is not just military but it’s also economic and social and to the ANSF and to other very important areas like development and governance. And it will also have people recognize that they will have to adjust to the fact that there will be this continuation of the U.S.-Afghan relationship into the future.

I think for all the parties, the Afghan population, the region, and I’d say for the Taliban as well, that’s something they will need to adjust to, and I don’t think, actually, it will be counterproductive at all.

Let me make one other point. That is that people say, well, this agreement will allow for permanent bases of the United States of America in Afghanistan. You all will read, as we have said all along, that it absolutely will not. [We do not seek] permanent bases of the United States of America in Afghanistan.

Thank you all very much.