Panetta to Convey U.S. Support at NATO Conference
By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service
BRUSSELS, Oct. 9, 2012 – During his fifth conference of NATO defense ministers here, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta will convey U.S. support for enhancing alliance capabilities, missile defense, cybersecurity, counterterrorism and countering weapons of mass destruction.
“I’ll also reassure allies of our strong commitment to finishing the job in Afghanistan alongside our allies,” the secretary told reporters traveling with him this week to Peru, Uruguay and Brussels.
Before today’s first meetings of the NATO defense ministers and members of the North Atlantic Council, Panetta will meet one-on-one with British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond.
Panetta also will have short meetings with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and with German Defense Minister Thomas de Maizière, and later this afternoon he will meet with French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.
This morning, Rasmussen provided reporters with an overview of the conference.
“We will be meeting today and tomorrow to discuss progress of our missions in Afghanistan and Kosovo, and how we can maintain our security in a time of economic austerity, including through cooperation on key defense capabilities,” the secretary general said, adding that Afghanistan will top the agenda.
The mission there is challenging, and it has faced some challenging months, he said, noting the uptick in insider attacks on coalition forces.
“The enemies of Afghanistan are trying to undermine the progress we have made in building security and building the Afghan forces. But we will not let them succeed,” Rasmussen said.
Panetta said Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen, commander of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, would attend the conference.
“General Allen has put a number of steps into place to confront the insider threat issue, and he’s done that alongside the Afghans to try to make sure that we do everything we can to protect against insider attacks,” the secretary said. “My goal is to make clear to NATO and to our allies that we are taking all steps necessary to confront this issue, and that it should not be allowed to deter us from the plan that General Allen has put in place.”
In Brussels, Rasmussen said NATO remains committed to its goal, its strategy, and to Afghanistan. “We remain committed to completing our ISAF mission at the end of 2014, as planned,” he added. “And we remain committed to launching a new mission to train, advise and assist the Afghan security forces after 2014.”
Tomorrow, Rasmussen said, he will look to the ministers to endorse a broad framework for the new training mission in Afghanistan that will guide military planners as they draw up the detailed outline in the coming months.
“We will also take stock of the progress we’ve made on capabilities,” the secretary general said. “We are maintaining the momentum on defense projects and building on what we agreed at our Chicago summit. Allies are already working on 24 multinational programs, and more will come soon.”
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