“NATO delivers” – first ever Secretary General’s Annual Report launched in Brussels
On 26 January, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen launched the first ever 'Secretary General’s Annual Report' at a press conference in the NATO HQ in Brussels. The Annual Report gives a brief overview of NATO's principal achievements and challenges in 2011, which Rasmussen summed up in two words “NATO delivers”.
The 20-page report focuses on four areas: NATO operations, emerging security challenges, the modernization of NATO – its structures and capabilities - as well as NATO’s growing partnerships. These areas are examined against the backdrop of the financial crisis and are preceded by a foreword from the Secretary General.
During a subsequent Q&A session with reporters, Rasmussen urged Alliance countries to stick to the “agreed plan” on Afghanistan. President Nicolas Sarkozy suggested last week that France might pull its troops out faster than anticipated after four French troops serving in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission were killed by an Afghan soldier, who turned against them during a joint training exercise.
“We outlined a roadmap and it's important to the success of our operations that we maintain a commitment to this agreed plan”, Rasmussen said. He also drew attention to the more recent statements in support of the ISAF mission from French Defence Minister Gerard Longuet and Sarkozy, while also acknowledging that the timeline for bringing troops home “is ultimately a decision for the French authorities to make, following consultation with ISAF commanders and partners”.
France has 3,600 soldiers in Afghanistan - the fourth-largest contingent after those of the United States, Britain and Germany.
Rasmussen also conceded that NATO talks with Russia on missile defence are stalled, reducing the likelihood of a NATO-Russia summit at the Chicago NATO summit in May. "I still hope we will be able to reach an agreement with Russia on missile defence cooperation", Rasmussen said, “However, I also have to make it clear that we have not made much progress so far”.
Questioned on continuing clashes taking place in parts of Libya, Rasmussen said that NATO has no intention of launching new air operations. NATO ended its air war in Libya three months ago and declared it had accomplished its mission to protect the civilian population. "We are not present in Libya and we have no intention to return", Rasmussen said, noting that the UN mandate that authorized the operation was no longer active.