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Russian Defense Minister did not believe in a dual policy of NATO towards Russia

Министр обороны РФ Анатолий Сердюков. Архив

 

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MOSCOW, December 13 – (KATAKAMI / RIA Novosti) — Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov did not believe in the authenticity of the publications on the site WikiLeaks, in particular, the issue of double-NATO policy towards Russia.

In earlier publications placed WikiLeaks said that NATO’s relations with Russia has not changed and that the organization still sees in Russia a potential enemy .

“We still hope that this publication is not untrue or would be, of course, that is what happened, although I understand that any deployment of troops near the border of Russia, of course, cause for concern … We will have to take some measures accordingly, appropriate to the measures being taken by one country or another, or, in general, the block in this case “- said Serdyukov on Monday, television channel Vesti-24.

The Minister stressed that the Lisbon summit, NATO adopted a strategic concept for NATO, which Russia really satisfied than those options that were considered before.

He recalled that after the events in South Ossetia in August of 2008 ended its relationship with NATO, although it was not our initiative. ” “We tried after all these events to build our relationships and restore them in full. This certainly relates to the exercise, joint activities and sea in the Gulf of Aden, and, of course, work with Afghanistan and so on. There are a whole range of issues that we have resumed, “- said Serdyukov.

He reiterated that, according to the Lisbon document, Russia is not a threat to NATO. “So we look at this document to be optimistic and believe that our relations will develop in a positive way,” – said Serdyukov.

The head of the Defense Ministry said that Russia is now going to work, directly related to threat assessment, including parts for missile defense.

“There may be an issue. We have long been working on ways to assess the threats and challenges that are actually worth, and to assess NATO’s and the evaluation of the Russian Federation. We are trying these positions still somehow pull together and understand and appreciate the reality of them, “- said Serdyukov.

At the same time, he acknowledged that Russia’s publishing WikiLeaks not have a big surprise. “We are realists, illusion, of course, do not suffer. And I said at the outset about the August events. After them, the more we all illusions vanished. We therefore precisely this attitude and we will respond accordingly,” – said Minister of Defence.

On the other hand, he expressed the hope that official Washington reacted to the publication WikiLeaks. “We would like to be some sort of denial about this.’s Official statement,” – said the minister.

So far, the U.S. State Department did not circulate the official statements about the recent publications WikiLeaks.  (*)

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Posted by on December 13, 2010 in World News

 

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Opinion : Why not leave Afghanistan tomorrow?

US President Barack Obama gestures as he speaks during a press conference on November 20, 2010 in Lisbon, as part of a NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) Summit of Heads of States and Government held on 19-20 November 2010. (Photo by PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU/AFP/Getty Images)
By : Ed Koch ( Jpost)

November 24, 2010 (KATAKAMI / Jpost) — President Barack Obama met with his NATO counterparts in Lisbon last week.  According to the November 21 New York Times, they agreed “to the goal of a phased transfer of security responsibility to the Afghan government by the end of 2014, but NATO officials acknowledged that allied forces would remain in Afghanistan at least in a support role well beyond that date.”

Further, if the Afghan army isn’t ready by the end of 2014 to “manage its own security, 2014 was not a hard and fast deadline for the end of combat operations.”  Why would anyone think that Afghan forces will ever be combat ready and able to defend their own country against the Taliban? Surely it is by now an unsolvable mystery why the Afghan military forces, trained for 9 years by US and NATO troops, is currently unable to defend their country while the Taliban is capable of major successful strikes in Kabul, the capital, and apparently governs large parts of the country either by night when US army patrols return to their bases, or 24 hours a day when US forces don’t dare enter the neighborhood.

We know that the Taliban is supplied with substantial funding from the local drug trade.  We know that drug trade is dominated by the Karzai family, and that President Karzai’s own brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, is acknowledged to be a drug kingpin.  We know that Afghanistan is one of the most corrupt countries in the world.  We know that Iran regularly sends millions of dollars to President Karzai for his personal use.  We know all of these things because The New York Times reporters day after day, week after week, year after year, have reported how the Karzai government has cooperated with the Taliban forces seeking to bring them into the Afghan government.  Bizarrely, the US government has cooperated with those efforts, while our soldiers die in the killing fields of Afghanistan.

In June of this year, the Wall Street Journal reported:

“More than $3 billion in cash has been openly flown out of Kabul International Airport in the past three years, a sum so large that US investigators believe top Afghan officials and their associates are sending billions of diverted US aid and logistics dollars and drug money to financial safe havens abroad.  The cash — packed into suitcases, piled onto pallets and loaded into airplanes — is declared and legal to move.

But US and Afghan officials say they are targeting the flows in major anticorruption and drug trafficking investigations because of their size relative to Afghanistan’s small economy and the murkiness of their origins.  Officials believe some of the cash, if not most, is siphoned from Western aid projects and US, European and NATO contracts to provide security, supplies and reconstruction work for coalition forces in Afghanistan.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization spent about $14 billion here last year alone.  Profits reaped from the opium trade are also a part of the money flow, as is cash earned by the Taliban from drugs and extortion, officials say.  The amount declared as it leaves the airport is vast in a nation where the gross domestic product last year totaled $13.5 billion.  More declared cash flies out of Kabul each year than the Afghan government collects in tax and customs revenue nationwide.  ‘It’s not like they grow money on trees here,’ said a US official investigating corruption and Taliban financing.  ‘A lot of this looks like our tax dollars being stolen. And opium, of course.’”

We also know that President Karzai endangers American and other NATO troops (we have about 100,000 troops in Afghanistan while the rest of NATO has 40,000) by demanding according to The Times, “that the NATO led coalition stop carrying out night raids and limit airstrikes, which military commanders consider among their most effective tools but which have caused civilian casualties.”

President Obama in response to Karzai’s demands that the US limit its military responses said, “If we’re ponying up billions of dollars to ensure that President Karzai can continue to build and develop his country, then he’s got to also pay attention to our concerns as well…He’s got to understand that I’ve got a bunch of young men and women who are in a foreign country being shot at” and “need to protect themselves.”

Nevertheless, despite his protestations, our young men and women continue to die to protect a corrupt government and country where many people hate us.

The Times reported on November 21 that “At a closed door meeting here, General David H. Petraeus, the top American and NATO commander in Afghanistan, set out his strategy for the transition, confirming that the kind of operations Mr. Karzai has criticized, including drone missile strikes and nighttime raids would continue aggressively.”

If the Afghan government persists in denouncing and objecting to our tactics, I have no doubt that they, not we, will prevail.  Our being in Afghanistan and the way we conduct ourselves is subject to his approval.  We have said many times that we will leave Afghanistan whenever and if ever the Afghan government demands we do.  Why should they ever demand we leave?  We are their piñata.  The US obviously doesn’t want to leave.  To date, we have spend over $300 billion on the Afghan war and we have suffered 1,273 US troop deaths.  NATO has suffered 822 troop deaths.  We have suffered over 7,000 combat injuries.  Those injuries are the worst kind, coming primarily from Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) roadside bombs, causing many amputations and brain injuries.

What do we have to show at this point for the bloodbath we have suffered and the billions we have expended?  We are hindered in defending ourselves by a corrupt Afghan government with a particularly corrupt Afghan President playing a double game with our sworn enemy, Iran.  The latter sees Afghanistan as a satellite tribal area to be bought not only with Iranian bribes, but also with religious and ethnic ties.

Afghans know that Iran will be there forever, while the US will ultimately leave if not tomorrow, and not in 2014, sometime in the future when ultimately a now apparently lethargic American public finally wakes up and demands we leave.  We would have left long ago were we still defended by a draft army instead of a volunteer army.

Surely, the combination of spilled blood with the expenditure of billions of dollars on the war in Afghanistan, when we are now contemplating reductions in Social Security benefits and educational funds for teaching our children, will cause the American public to rise up in wrath and say “No,” with a mighty roar.  The question of remaining in Afghanistan, while not even an issue in the 2010 election, will become one in the presidential election of 2012.

Why this ongoing stupid war which cannot be won on the ground because there is nothing worth winning has not received the attention that it deserves from the American public is a conundrum.  Nevertheless, the American public, even if at times it acts too slowly, will ultimately act.  Getting out of Afghanistan now, not in 2014 or thereafter, is the right thing to do.  (*)

 
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Posted by on November 25, 2010 in World News

 

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A transcript of PM David Cameron’s press conference at the NATO Summit in Lisbon

British Prime Minister David Cameron gives a press conference at the end of a NATO summit in Lisbon on Saturday Nov. 20, 2010. NATO on Saturday delivered a historic invitation for Russia to join a missile shield protecting Europe against Iranian attack, a milestone for an alliance that was built to defend against Soviet forces.(Getty Images / AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

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November 20, 2010 (KATAKAMI / NUMBER 10.GOV.UK) — Prime Minister David Cameron : Good afternoon.  NATO remains the bedrock of our collective defence and it is the most successful alliance in history: it has kept Europe secure for 61 years.  Whether we’re talking about conventional forces, our nuclear deterrents or how we defend ourselves against new threats, it is only NATO that brings Europe, the United States and Canada together.  My interventions this weekend were focused on NATO’s future, the next steps in Afghanistan, the reform of NATO for the 21st century and our partnership with Russia.

First, Afghanistan.  All 48 ISAF nations today reaffirmed our enduring commitment to a mission that is crucial to our national security, and we agreed today to enter a new phase in the campaign.  Our declaration sets out a clear commitment that transition will begin in early 2011.  We also reaffirmed our support for President Karzai’s objective for the Afghan national security forces to lead and conduct security operations in all provinces by the end of 2014.  This is not a commitment we have made lightly.  All 48 members of the ISAF coalition are agreed.  I know from meeting him today that President Karzai is agreed; so is the Secretary General of the United Nations.  So this is a commitment made at the very highest level with the broadest possible international support.  We also committed today to a long-term relationship with the government of Afghanistan.  Through training, diplomacy and development we will stand by Afghanistan for many years to come.

Britain has been at the centre of this debate.  We are the second largest contributor to ISAF with around 10,000 troops risking their lives in the most dangerous parts of Afghanistan.  I salute their bravery and their sacrifice.  By putting their lives on the line they are making lives safer back in Britain.  The commitment we’ve entered into today to transfer the lead responsibility for security to the Afghan government by the end of 2014 will pave the way for British combat troops to be out of Afghanistan by 2015.  This is a firm deadline which we will meet.

At this summit we also agreed on radical reforms to make NATO fit for the security challenges of the 21st century.  NATO’s new strategic concept reflects the thinking we set out in our National Security Strategy.  We will gear up to deal with the new threats: counterterrorism, cyber security, failing states, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.  These are NATO’s key tasks for the years ahead.  Nuclear deterrence also remains at the heart of what the alliance is about, but I also want to see progress towards a world free from nuclear weapons, so I praise the courage that President Obama and President Medvedev have shown in agreeing a new START treaty; early ratification would be in all our interests.

Reform of NATO must also mean a more efficient NATO, and we made very good progress on this agenda too.  We will cut the number of command posts from 13,000 to less than 9,000; we will reduce the number of NATO agencies from 14 to three; and we will ensure that all decisions taken at this summit are funded from within NATO’s existing resource plan.  These changes will save Britain tens of millions of pounds and will allow NATO to focus its efforts on the frontline.

There was a discussion at the summit on cooperation between the EU and NATO.  It is, frankly, intolerable that a tangle of bureaucracy in Brussels is preventing practical cooperation on the ground in Afghanistan.  We need to find a way through this as quickly as possible.

As you know, there’s also been a major breakthrough at this summit on missile defence.  Not only have we agreed, for the first time, to establish a missile defence system to protect all NATO members from ballistic missile attacks, but we’ve also taken the unprecedented step of inviting Russia to cooperate with us on that system.  Just a year ago, missile defence was a deeply divisive issue in NATO and in NATO Russia relations.  Today, that same issue is bringing us together, demonstrating that we can and will cooperate with Russia on our vital security interests.  At a time when we face an increasingly grave threat from rogue states with countries like Iran seeking to develop ballistic missile capabilities, these are significant, bold, and necessary steps.

Let me finish by congratulating Secretary General Rasmussen for his outstanding leadership.  In 1949, the alliance first said that an attack against one is an attack against all.  Today, the threats we face are different and the world is in many ways more uncertain, but our alliance remains rock solid and Britain’s commitment to it is as strong as ever.

Thank you, and happy to take some questions.

United Kingdom's Prime Minister David Cameron speaks during a press conference on November 20, 2010 in Lisbon, as part of a NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) Summit of Heads of States and Government held on 19-20 November 2010. (Photo by MIGUEL RIOPA/AFP/Getty Images)

Question

Thank you, Prime Minister.  Is it responsible to set a date for the withdrawal of combat troops irrespective of the situation on the ground?  You’ll be aware your NATO counterparts say that conditions not calendars should determine the withdrawal.

Prime Minister

Well, NATO has itself set a timeline of 2014 by which time transition will be complete and Afghan forces will be in lead control.  The deadline we’ve set, 2015, is beyond that and it is, if you like, a backstop, but let me be clear: it is a deadline, and I think the British public deserve a deadline.  By 2015, we will have been in Helmand Province, the toughest part of Afghanistan, for nine years.  We have 10,000 troops; that is the second largest participation after America.  We’ve paid a very high price in terms of the service that our service personnel have given and the lives that we have lost.  We’ve played a great role in making Afghanistan a stronger and more stable country, and I think it’s only right that we are clear with the British public that there is an endpoint in this work, and it’s an endpoint that is totally consistent with what NATO and the Afghan government have set out.

Question

Prime Minister, can we just be absolutely clear: if, after 2014, you receive a request from either NATO or, indeed, the Afghan government to provide British troops for combat operations in Afghanistan, you will turn it down?  I suppose what I’m asking is, given that the Americans have left that particular door open, why have you been so quick to close it?

Prime Minister

Well, I think that the British people deserve this sort of clarity, and let me be clear: we will go on having a relationship with Afghanistan.  We will have a development relationship, we will be spending aid money in Afghanistan, we’ll have a diplomatic relationship, we’ll have government to government relations, we may have British soldiers helping to go on training their armed forces, which will be essential for the stability of Afghanistan.  But what I’ve said is that from 2015 there won’t be troops in anything like the numbers there are now and there won’t be combat troops.  That is completely consistent with what NATO’s set out, but I think the British public need to know that after having gone into Afghanistan in 2001, having gone into Helmand Province in 2006, having taken such a huge share of the burden, having performed so magnificently all these years, that there is an endpoint, there is a deadline, and that is what I’ve set, totally consistent with what NATO and the Afghan government have set out, but I think absolutely right that we do that.

Question

You say it is consistent with what NATO are saying, but the Secretary General Rasmussen was saying it had to be conditions-based; it could not be calendar-driven.  You are talking about a deadline.  There is a clear difference, isn’t there, there?

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron talk prior to participation in a NATO Russia Council meeting at a NATO summit in Lisbon on Saturday Nov. 20, 2010. NATO planned Saturday to deliver a historic invitation for Russia to join a missile shield protecting Europe against Iranian attack, a milestone for an alliance that was built to defend against Soviet forces.( Getty Images / AP Photo/Armando Franca)

Prime Minister

Well, I do not accept that there is a difference, because NATO is saying that between early 2011 and 2014, transition will take place, and by 2014, what you will have is the Afghans in lead security control throughout Afghanistan.  When I set this deadline, I set it beyond that mark, but I think it is important, as I say – and the British public have been incredibly supportive and very, very supportive of our brave armed forces and what they do, but I think they deserve to know that there is an endpoint, that this does not go on for ever in terms of a combat mission.

But let me be clear.  We will go on having a relationship with Afghanistan.  We will not walk away from that country, but by 2015, we will have done many, many years in Helmand province, the toughest part of Afghanistan, and I think the British public deserve that sort of certainty about the future.

Question

Just following through on what you have said: 2015 is a deadline you will end British combat operations in Afghanistan, come what may.  We do not know the US position on that.  Would you be willing, as a British Prime Minister, to withdraw British troops from combat operations in Afghanistan if American troops were still engaged in combat?  Would you leave our closest ally fighting alone in Afghanistan?

Prime Minister

We are working extremely closely with our closest ally, and we will go on doing that, but as I have said, I could not be more clear about what 2015 is and what it means.  I mean, let’s be clear: there are other countries that have already moved from combat operations to training missions.  By 2015, we will have spent nine years in Helmand, the toughest part of Afghanistan.  We have already paid a very high price.  We go on paying that price.  We know that we have an important role in bringing the stability and security, which is good for the whole of the world, and good for Britain, because we still face an Islamic terrorist threat that comes out of the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, and we have to squeeze that problem from both sides of the border, as we are doing, but I have been absolutely clear about the commitments that we have made and will make.

Question

Are there any commitments in place to ensure that other NATO nations will remain with the combat mission right to the end, and not just leave Britain and America to wash up in the most difficult places?  And what scale of commitment beyond 2015 to the combat mission are you prepared to make?

Prime Minister

Okay, well, two questions there.  First of all, on the issue of as we transition, I think it is important that those countries that are involved in easier parts of the country do not just transition, as it were, over and out, leaving countries like Britain in some of the more testing parts of the country.  I discussed that in my contributions to the ISAF summit here, and President Obama, I know, shares those views; we discussed it.  I think it is important that those countries that are able to benefit from transition early on reinvest into training or into other parts of the country.  This is an alliance of solidarity.  It is important we show that sort of solidarity.

In terms of the future beyond 2015, it is some way away, and I think it is quite a speculation about how many troops would be involved in, for instance, ongoing training of the Afghan army.  But obviously that is something Britain does extremely well, Britain is very involved in that now, and that is something I think, in terms of building the capacity of Afghanistan to go on looking after its own security, is something that may well be in our interests to make a decent sized contribution to.

Question

Prime Minister, as you are aware, there was a degree of resentment among the Americans when the British pulled out of Basra against the wishes of many of the American commanders.  Do you think there may be a similar kind of reaction among the Americans if we pull out of Helmand in a combat role while they are still fighting in Southern and Eastern Afghanistan?

Prime Minister

I just do not sense that at all.  I have spent the last two days sitting next to President Obama at virtually every meeting and virtually every meal, and the relationship between Britain and America, and the cooperation of our forces, and the fact that they are fighting alongside so effectively, I think, is extremely strong.  We are the second largest contributor in Afghanistan, ten thousand troops in the toughest part of the fighting, absolutely, and if you go to Helmand, you see British troops and US Marines working hand-in-hand, side by side, fighting incredibly effectively.  And I think the Americans respect and know that the British forces are forces capable of taking the fight to the enemy, of closing with the enemy and, actually, full combat, no caveat, and equally as effective as any troops anywhere in the world.

So I do not really recognise the overall description, but I think the most important thing is to set out these positions clearly.  That is exactly what I have done and what I have gone on doing today.

Question

Are you able to say whether we are going to start withdrawing troops next year, and can you indicate which districts in Helmand you envisage as being the first ones to be able to be transitioned to Afghan lead?

Prime Minister

I think it would be wrong to try and identify districts.  I mean, the process is that we have agreed at this NATO summit that transition will start in 2011, early 2011.  What now has to follow is a plan and a process that needs to be based on the conditions on the ground about what can be transitioned and when.  Clearly, if it starts in 2011, there should be opportunities for countries to move troops from combat to training or, indeed, to possibly even reduce troop numbers in some way, so these are possibilities that will be examined as the NATO plan is drawn up.  We will play a very clear and important role in that.  As I say, if you look at the role that Britain plays, the second largest troop contributor, involved in the toughest part of the country, absolutely at the heart of NATO, at the heart of the ISAF command where we have the Deputy Com ISAF, absolutely the centre of that process and so involved in both the shaping and the planning of it as well as the execution, and, indeed, as you have indicated in your question, being a beneficiary from that process as well.

Can I thank you all very much for coming and wish you a safe journey home.  Thank you.  (*)

 
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Posted by on November 21, 2010 in World News

 

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“Firm deadline” for UK troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, says PM Cameron

British Prime Minister David Cameron speaks to the media during a press conference on day two of the NATO summit at Feira Internacional de Lisboa (FIL) on November 20, 2010 in Lisbon, Portugal. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

 

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November 20, 2010 (KATAKAMI / NUMBER 10.GOV.UK) — Prime Minister David Cameron has said the withdrawal of British combat troops from Afghanistan by 2015 was a “firm deadline” that would be met.

Speaking at the close of the NATO Summit in Lisbon, the PM said Afghan forces would begin taking charge of security from early next year.

Transcript: Press conference at NATO Summit

He said the process would be complete by the end of 2014 allowing British troops to step back from combat roles by 2015.

“The commitment we have entered into today to transfer the lead responsibility for security to the Afghan government by the end of 2014 will pave the way for British combat troops to be out of Afghanistan by 2015,” he told an end-of-summit press conference.

“This is a firm deadline that we will meet.”

Mr Cameron’s comments come after leaders of NATO’s 28 states backed a strategy to transfer leadership for the fight against the Taliban to Afghan forces by the end of 2014.

Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai attended the Summit, where he signed a long-term security partnership with NATO.

Mr Cameron hailed today’s agreement as the beginning of a “new phase in the campaign”.

“This is a commitment made at the very highest level, with the broadest possible international support.”

While UK forces would no longer be involved in combat duties by 2015, Mr Cameron said NATO had also agreed to provide long-term support for Afghanistan on training, diplomacy and development.

“We will stand by Afghanistan for many years to come.”

On Friday member states agreed a new 10-year “strategic concept”, a document that defines the fundamental nature of NATO’s role in the world.

The document commits NATO members “to defend one another against attack, including against new threats to the safety of our citizens”, without defining a geographical limit to its theatre of operations.

Also at the Summit, Russia agreed to co-operate on NATO’s programme to defend against ballistic missile attacks.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the two sides had agreed in writing that they no longer posed a threat to one another.  (*)

 
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Posted by on November 21, 2010 in World News

 

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NATO aims to end combat mission in Afghanistan by 2015

Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai (2nd L) and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen (R) sign accords in front of U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon during the NATO Summit in Lisbon November 20, 2010 (Photo : Reuters / Yves Herman)

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November 20, 2010. (KATAKAMI / Reuters) – NATO agreed on Saturday to hand control of security in Afghanistan to Afghan forces by the end of 2014 and said the NATO-led force could halt combat operations by the same date if security conditions were good enough.

Some NATO officials fear a rise in violence could make it hard to meet the target date set by Afghan President Hamid Karzai for the security handover, which would leave a vastly reduced number of foreign troops in a training and support role.

But President Barack Obama lifted hopes the target date would be met by saying for the first time that his aim was to halt major U.S. combat operations by the end of 2014 and significantly reduce the number of U.S. troops there.

“Today marks the beginning of a new phase in our mission in Afghanistan,” NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told an alliance summit in Lisbon attended by the Afghan president and 48 countries with troops in Afghanistan.

“I don’t foresee ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) troops in a combat role beyond 2014, provided of course that the security situation allows us to move into a more supportive role.”

Senior U.S. officials had raised doubts about the target for the end of combat operations, saying Obama would decide when the U.S. combat mission ends only after completed a review of the war. But the president later said he shared the NATO aim.

“My goal is to make sure that by 2014 we have transitioned, Afghans are in the lead, and it is a goal to make sure we are not still engaged in combat operations of the sort we are involved in now,” Obama told a news conference.

Karzai said he also believed the handover, starting early next year, could be completed by the end of 2014 “because I found today strong commitment by the international community.”

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, however, the handover must be shaped by the security situation and not by timetables. “There are no short cuts to peace,” he said.

PRESSURE ON OBAMA

Obama said counter-terrorism operations against al Qaeda in the region were likely to continue after 2014. About 90,000 of the 130,000 ISAF troops are American and there are more than 20,000 other U.S. soldiers based in Afghanistan.

Rasmussen said the new strategy did not mean all 150,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan would leave by the end of 2014 and said NATO would not abandon the government.

“If the enemies of Afghanistan have the idea that they can just wait it out until we leave, they have the wrong idea,” he said.

The Afghan conflict is widely seen as going badly for the United States and NATO. Obama was stung by criticism last year that he was jeopardizing the lives of U.S. soldiers by announcing U.S. troops would begin withdrawing in July 2011.

Critics said setting the date would embolden the Taliban and the White House had been careful to refer to 2014 only as the date when Afghans would finally take the lead in security rather than as a target for the end of the U.S. combat mission.

Many countries’ leaders face voter pressure to withdraw troops gradually as casualties and costs rise.

Western casualties this year have hit record levels and in the latest attack Taliban suicide bombers on bicycles killed four people and wounded 31 on Saturday.

Despite the problems, Obama, who ordered 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan last year, said he believed NATO forces were making progress in blunting the momentum of the Taliban.

Security analysts, however, have questioned the upbeat assessments of U.S. military officials, saying they appear designed to influence U.S. public opinion.

STRATEGY FRAUGHT WITH DIFFICULTIES

The U.S.-led intervention in Afghanistan began in response to the September 11, 2001, attacks. The United States and its allies invaded to overthrow the then-ruling Taliban, who had refused to hand over al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

More than 2,200 foreign troops have since been killed there. The withdrawal strategy hinges on efforts to build up Afghan forces so they can contain the insurgency.

The Kabul government is widely seen as too corrupt, unstable and inept to survive long without foreign military support.

NATO enlisted the support of Russia during talks in Lisbon with President Dmitry Medvedev, whose country is not part of NATO and was its Cold War enemy.

Medvedev agreed to expand an agreement to allow equipment to go through its territory to Afghanistan and agreed to look at ways for Russia be involved in a U.S.-European missile defense system designed to protect against a long-range attack.

Thousands of anti-NATO protesters marched peacefully through Lisbon on Saturday and police detained several dozen activists who blocked a road to the military alliance’s summit venue. There were no reports of violence.  (*)

 
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Posted by on November 21, 2010 in World News

 

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NATO-Russia set on path towards strategic partnership

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November 20, 2010 (KATAKAMI / NATO.INT ) — The third summit in the history of the NATO-Russia Council (NRC) took place in Lisbon on 20 November 2010. At the end of this historic gathering, President Dmitri Medvedev of Russia and his counterparts from the other 28 NRC member states issued a joint statement.

In this statement, NRC leaders pledged to “work towards achieving a true strategic and modernised partnership based on the principles of reciprocal confidence, transparency, and predictability, with the aim of contributing to the creation of a common space of peace, security and stability in the Euro-Atlantic area.”
The NRC Heads of State and Government took a number of important decisions.

First, they endorsed the first ever Joint Review of 21st Century Common Security Challenges, outlining shared views of Russia and Allies on key security questions and ways to address them through practical cooperation.

Second, they agreed on a joint ballistic missile threat assessment and decided to resume Theatre Missile Defence Cooperation. Moreover, they tasked a development of a comprehensive Joint Analysis of the future framework for broader missile defence cooperation. This work will be assessed at the June 2011 meeting of NRC Defence Ministers.

Third, participants reconfirmed a shared determination to assist in the stabilisation of Afghanistan and the whole region. In this context, they welcomed broadened transit arrangements through Russian territory for non-lethal ISAF goods, moved to expand the counter-narcotics training and decided to task a development of an NRC Helicopter Maintenance Trust Fund in 2011.

Other issues discussed included NRC cooperation on counter-terrorism, and the fight against piracy.
Summing up the NRC summit, Mr Rasmussen said:

“We have agreed, together, on which security challenges NATO nations and Russia actually face today. What’s most significant is what’s not on the list: each other. The NATO nations and Russia have, today, agreed, in writing, that while we face many security challenges, we pose no threat to each other. That, alone, draws a clear line between the past and the future of NATO-Russia relations.”  (MS)

 
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Posted by on November 21, 2010 in World News

 

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Russian permanent representative at NATO Dmitry Rogozin says Russia will bring new ideas to Lisbon

Russia’s permanent representative at NATO, Dmitry Rogozin

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November 16, 2010 — EURONEWS spoke to Russia’s permanent representative at NATO, Dmitry Rogozin in Brussels ahead of the NATO-Russia summit on Friday in Lisbon.

Euronews : Mr. Rogozin, what are you expecting Russia to bring to the Lisbon summit? Do you think the conditions now exist for closer co-operation between NATO and Russia?

“We are particularly hoping for the heads of the 29 member states in the NATO-Russia council to send a strong signal to their publics that the post cold-war climate has changed, and that Russia and NATO are now real partners.”

Euronews : What could that signal be?

“Above all it is honest talks on the questions where we share common positions, and those where we disagree. I think there’ll be three big questions in Lisbon. The first is the content of NATO’s new strategy. The second is, well, we are looking for serious debate on missiles, on the risks, and on siting anti-missile defences in Europe. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has taken the initiative to invite Russia into this debate. The third is a debate on Afghanistan. It’s a common problem. Afghanistan represents a security threat, and the Russian Federation makes a serious contribution alongside NATO nations to help the Afghan people gain greater autonomy, acquire more skills, and thus become a more stable nation, and help stabilise an entire region.”

Euronews : In the past Moscow has been firmly opposed to NATO membership for Ukraine and Georgia. Has this position changed, and if yes, under what conditions?

“Russia is formally opposed to any fresh eastward expansion of NATO. We do not want any foreign military infrastructure next to our borders. But the paradox is it’s not just Russia who is opposed to this. Ukraine doesn’t want to join NATO, while in the case of Georgia two and a half years ago NATO encouraged Georgia to take two completely mad military actions against two independent peoples, those of South Osettia and, even worse, the assassination of Russian UN troops.
I think this episode closed the question of Georgia’s NATO membership for a very long time to come. Of course, NATO keeps bringing it up, saying the door is open for both Georgia and Ukraine, but in fact anyone in the west paying serious attention to the subject knows their membership is further away than three years ago.”

Euronews : Europeans and Americans, when they talk about setting up an anti-missile shield in Europe, are convinced the danger will come form Iran. Does Moscow see the threat coming from there?

“In general we don’t like to point the finger at any nation and call it evil while maintaining we’re the good guys. It’s unfair. We don’t think military methods or threats can solve any problem. Iran has a democratic form of government, with real elections, so it’s not a tyrannical dictatorship.”

Euronews : How could Russia and NATO co-operate in the missile shield?

“I don’t want to second-guess what the Russian president will say in Lisbon. I think he’s ready for some serious talks on the nature of the global threat, we are completing our analysis before going to Lisbon. He is ready to suggest some interesting new ideas and Russian initiatives, and I think on this level the summit will be very constructive.”

Euronews :  NATO is still committed in Afghanistan. Is Russia going to participate, either directly or by ensuring a supply role?

“In Soviet times Russia was in Afghanistan, fighting a war, and we got sick of it. I think that soon NATO will be sick of it, too.”

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