Speech

PM's closing remarks at NATO Summit Chicago

This speech was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Prime Minister's closing statement at Chicago Summit day two, focusing on Afghanistan.

Prime Minister:

This summit reached important conclusions on the future of Afghanistan on the timetable for transition, the plan for post-2014 and the future funding of the Afghan National Security Forces.

We also had an important discussion on the future of NATO itself.

Let me say a word about each.

First, on Afghanistan, I have said that British troops will no longer be in a combat role beyond the end of 2014.

That is our deadline. And at this Summit, NATO confirmed it will be the deadline for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission.

The plan for the transition of full security responsibility from ISAF to Afghan National Security Forces agreed at Lisbon is on track and on target.

President Karzai has announced that the third tranche of provinces will start transition next month. This includes Nahr-e Saraj, the third and the final district of Helmand for which we are responsible.

And by the middle of 2013 Afghan National Security Forces will be in the lead for security across the whole country - and that is crucially more than a year before our troops leave their combat role.

This is a direct result of the tremendous hard work of our courageous service men and women and I want to pay tribute to them again today.

Their service and their sacrifice is beyond measure, and we should remember in particular all those who have given their lives in this vital task which is about stability and security in Afghanistan but it is also about stability, security and freedom from terrorism in our own country and keeping our country safe.

Let me turn to the post-2014 plan.

Work will now begin immediately on the military planning process for the post-ISAF mission, but let me be clear NATO will not establish a new combat mission. Instead we will maintain our commitment to a stable Afghanistan by training, advising and assisting the Afghan National Security Forces post-2014.

We are making a decisive and enduring commitment to the long-term future of Afghanistan. The message to the Afghan people is that we will not desert them.

And the message to the insurgency is equally clear: you cannot win on the battlefield; stop fighting and start talking.

To support the post-2014 operation, we agreed new financial support for the Afghan National Security Forces. Britain is pledging £70 million a year from 2015.

This is in addition to providing 75 per cent of all trainers at the new Afghan National Army Officer Academy which we are leading next year. This was a specific request from President Karzai to the British and I think its something we can make a real and lasting contribution to, the future of military effectiveness of the Afghan parliament.

This is a significant contribution but it is a fraction of the cost of a combat mission. It is very much in our national interest that we continue to play an important role in supporting Afghanistan post-2014. But it is also right that other countries should step up and contribute to the future of Afghanistan, irrespective of the role they have played so far.

Now I believe this Summit marks a turning point in these contributions - with almost a billion dollars being pledged to support the Afghan National Security Forces … [indistinct] including significant new contributions from Australia, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Estonia and the Netherlands to mention just a few. We also looked forward to further announcements of new support for Afghanistan’s economic development at the Tokyo Summit in July.

Finally, we had a discussion at the summit on the future of NATO itself.

With defence budgets in decline some are arguing that NATO needs to retrench, lower its ambitions and look inwards to the core responsibilities of collective defence. But I argued - and this Summit agreed - that NATO should actually do the opposite. We should look outwards, reassert NATO’s relevance and make sure it is ready and capable to tackle the threats that may lie outside its territory, nonetheless are very real threats to us at home.

Only NATO could have taken on the operation in Afghanistan.

Only NATO could have reacted so quickly and effectively in Libya, acting with great precision and incorporating partners like the UAE, Qatar, Morocco and Jordan so effectively into its command and control structure.

To maintain this capability in a tough financial climate, NATO needs a new mindset.

President Obama and I argued that NATO should consider a process not dissimilar to the strategic reviews we have recently carried out in Britain and America - taking a rigorous look at the threats we face today; prioritising for the capabilities we need to meet those threats, not the capabilities we needed for the fights of yesterday; and taking the hard decisions to cut some programmes in order to invest in others.

This approach lies at the heart of the NATO Forces 2020 Defence Package which we agreed at this Summit.

We agreed that NATO needs to modernise and prioritise better to address the new risks from an unstable world of failed states, regional conflicts, global terrorism, nuclear proliferation and cyber attacks.

We agreed NATO needs greater specialisation, so that not every country tries to do everything. For example, the Baltic States are doing a great job on the ground in Afghanistan while others are protecting their airspace and we need more arrangements in future.

And we agreed that NATO needs greater co-operation, with more credible and effective planning with allies and sharing lessons and working together to develop capabilities in the future.

NATO binds the US to Europe not as a security provider but as a security partner.  It is the bedrock of our defence.

It is vital to Britain’s national security, and the decisions we have made today will ensure that it remains the case.

Question:

President Obama’s clearly very vexed this morning by the refusal of Pakistan authorities to allow the ISAF supply checks across the border into Afghanistan. How vexed are you by this and what is being done about it at the moment? Second question if I may - you say the Taliban should stop fighting and start talking- what are you doing to try and get them to the negotiating table?

Prime Minister:

For the first of those-of course it is clearly frustrating. Pakistan is a strong ally and friend of Britain. We have a large trading relationship, we have a big aid relationship. We have tremendous relationships between the Pakistani diaspora in Britain and Pakistan. Obviously we want those lines of control opened again. I believe that they will be. I’m confident that is the case from the discussions I have had. But clearly it’s not going to happen today-we need to carry on with those discussions and make sure it does happen in the future. I’m confident it will. As I said at the NATO dinner last night the Pakistani relationship is vital for NATO, vital for ISAF and vital for Afghanistan. We have to understand the difficult politics and political situation in Pakistan. We have to understand the enormous amount they have lost to terrorism- probably the country that has suffered more than any other. We have to have that real understanding and Britain’s deep relationship with Pakistan I think brings that understanding. In spite of the occasional frustrations we have to stick with that relationship and I believe it will deliver.

On the issue of the Taliban we’ve made a very compelling case, crucially the Afghan government has made a compelling case, which is if you want to give up fighting, accept the basis of the Afghan constitution then as Hamid Karzai has put it there’s a place for everyone in the future of Afghanistan. The Taliban should be in no doubt that they have been defeated every way they’ve appeared on the battlefield. They don’t reconcile, they go on being defeated first by a combination of ISAF and Afghan national forces and then by Afghan forces themselves so there’s no let up in terms of the military pressure of the Taliban. We invariably had a very good report from the military commanders at the NATO ISAF summit today but the choice is theirs - whether they want to reconcile or they want to continue being defeated militarily as I say with the Afghan National Security Forces becoming increasingly capable.

Question:

In recent days you have warned of the make up or potential break up of the Euro. You have said to the Greeks that they have to decide one way or the other if they’re in or out of the Euro on June 17th. You have told other Eurozone leaders to prepare decisive contingency measures. By using that sort of language and by pushing so hard, is there not a danger that far from providing the pace for some sort of settlement of the Eurozone crisis you actually inflamed the crisis and created crisis mentality?

Prime Minister

I don’t believe that’s the case and that is why I have spoken out. I’d make two simple points-the first is this affects us, 40% of Britain’s exports go to Eurozone countries. What happens in the Eurozone matters to the United Kingdom.

And my judgment is that staying silent on the problems would actually be more dangerous than speaking out because we need these issues to be resolved, and I think - while I would commend what has happened in the Eurozone in terms of many of the steps they have taken to make their economies more competitive, to address some of the problems, to try and build a firewall, to go through proper exercises of recapitalising the banks - the truth i  they have still not done enough to decisively resolve the crisis.

And I would argue that the British contribution to this debate has been constructive. We have not just said ‘sort it out’, we have consistently set out the things that we think need to be done, whether that is firewalls, bank recapitalisation, a more active policy on behalf of the European Banking Committee (EBC), looking towards eurobonds for the future. These are important points. So I judge that it would be more dangerous to stay silent and to say there is nothing we can do about this, no contribution we can make, because these issues have to be resolved and in my view the swifter, the more effectively and more comprehensively they can be resolved the faster the Eurozone will be able to return to growth and that will obviously have a positive impact on us.

I would argue in some ways Britain has helped to promote a healthy debate about what needs to be done and that has obviously continued at this NATO summit as well as at the G8.

Question:

Prime Minister, General Allen has said that fighting will continue in Afghanistan right up to the December 2014 deadline and indeed after with Afghan forces. Your own officials are admitting that there will very likely need to be our own counter-terrorism presence there. The job which British troops were sent to Afghanistan for clearly won’t be finished by December 2014 so why are you bringing them home?

Prime Minister:

Ok well I think there are two important points to be made here and this relates very much to what General Allen said at the NATO ISAF meeting this morning. The first is I think one of the points he is rightly making and I made in my intervention as well is that 2013 is something of an inflection because at that stage you’re going to have Afghan forces in the lead right across the country. British troops and ISAF troops will be in this assisting mode but I think it’s very important we don’t mislead people in any way; while we will be in an assisting and helping mode, there will still be occasions when we are in a combat mode before the end of 2014 so I think it’s very important to make that point to people.

The truth is this. The level of attacks and level of insurgency has declined compared with last year. I believe it will go on declining. What is absolutely within our control is the growth of the Afghan National Security Forces, the capability they have. But clearly there will be a better outcome in Afghanistan if that is accompanied by a political development and a political solution as well. That is not fully within our control. But I am confident that our troops can leave with their heads held high having completed the combat task in 2014, because they will be handing over to fully capable Afghan National security forces who will be able to deal with any residual problems and issues in a fully capable way. They will have done a great job and I think people in our armed services now can see what is left in terms of the programme in Afghanistan and what action needs to be done, and crucially, is handing over to fully functional Afghan National Security forces.  

Question:

Did you see the Spanish Prime Minister today and did you talk to him about the security of Spanish banks? And can you assure Santander UK cardholders that their assets, their holdings, will be safe?

Prime Minister:

I’m having a meeting with the Spanish Prime Minister later today, obviously we’ve been discussing the full range of bilateral and European issues including the Eurozone crisis. People should know that British banks are well regulated and well capitalised and in terms of branches of banks in Britain, and all the rest of it, the Financial Services Authority has made the position very very clear.