Press Availability
Marc Grossman
Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan
Villy Sovndal, Foreign Minister of Denmark
Copenhagen, Denmark
March 19, 2012


Foreign Minister Sovndal: First of all, welcome to this “doorstep” with Mr. Grossman, who is one of the important figures in reaching a final agreement about Afghanistan. We met just before Christmas in Washington, had a very good and fruitful discussion, and we’re very pleased to see you again now in Copenhagen.

We know that there are some very important discussions ahead. The transition from international military presence in the [inaudible] and in the future will be the Afghan forces, security forces who are going to do that, the military part. We are going to support in training and we’re going of course to save them with aid.

Denmark has taken an initiative to try to get the countries to secure that there will be a willingness to pay also after 2014 when we are not present there with heavy military combat missions. We have to continue developing aid. We have to finance part of the Afghan Security Forces, both the military forces and the police forces.

The next meeting will be in Chicago in May. We’ll also confirm today that of course we are there until the end of 2014. There’s been some discussion about that lately. This does not mean that on Near Year’s Eve 2014 all will finish like that. It means that we are making a transition over a period which will finish by the end of 2014.

So I’ll give the floor to Mr. Grossman. Thank you very much again for coming to Copenhagen.

Ambassador Grossman: Thank you, Minister. Thank you very much.

First, thank you all for coming. May I first express my appreciation to the Minister and all of his colleagues for the hospitality we’ve been shown this morning.

As the Minister said, I begin a trip here to Europe and then to the region here in Copenhagen, and I came really to express both my appreciation and my admiration for what the people of Denmark, the government of Denmark have done these past 10 years in Afghanistan, and as the Minister said, going forward as well.

I expressed that appreciation and admiration first for the military effort that Danes have made and the losses the Danes have suffered. Second, for the civilian effort -- diplomats, development experts in Afghanistan these past 10 years. The substantial amount of civilian assistance that’s been sent from Denmark to Afghanistan -- $2.5 billion. Afghanistan is still one of the largest recipients of Danish aid, so the civilian effort is hugely important. Then third, I came to express my appreciation as the Minister just said for the initiative that Denmark has taken to try to find a way to make sure that the Afghan National Security Forces are both sufficient to do the job and are paid for in a way that is sustainable for countries like Denmark and the United States going forward.

I’ve had the good fortune to spend the morning here in consultation with the Foreign Ministry. We look forward to our session in parliament just after this meeting.

As the Minister said, it’s very important to see this effort as an effort that has achieved some very important success in Afghanistan over the past 10 years in terms of the growth of gross domestic product there, girls in education, a sustainable society. These things are all worth protecting and that’s why we’re working together to have a secure and sustainable and sufficient Afghan National Security Forces.

So, I think the job now is for us to take a few questions, and we’re glad to do so.

Media: I have a question for you, Mr. Ambassador. Last week the Danish foreign Mr. Sovndal stated that there would likely be setbacks in Afghanistan when the troops withdraw. Do you agree on that?

Ambassador Grossman: I would agree with both the Foreign Minister and your Prime Minister, which is to say that of course there will be setbacks. This is a conflict. There have been setbacks over the past 10 years but look what’s been accomplished, as I tried to say in terms of all of the areas of accomplishment. I’m sure there will be setbacks. We had a terrible tragedy two Sundays ago with an American soldier. These things happen. But as the Prime Minister said, and I think the Foreign Minister said as well, it’s a reason to press forward and to stay steady and to keep to the Lisbon requirement here, something we all agreed, and I believe that’s a view that’s shared here by the government.

Media: If I could ask you, Mr. Foreign Minister, that some of the setbacks could be avoided if the troops are there longer.

Foreign Minister Sovndal: I don’t think so. I think it’s very important to keep on the plan that was made. We are doing what we can to educate the Afghan Security Forces. That means both the police but also the military part of them. We’re trying to engage the neighboring country into the process. Of course Pakistan is a very important country. But all the neighboring countries, the Istanbul Conference that took place in November, if I remember right, or December. And also committing the world to shift from the heavy military combat mission into a mission where they developed and they led training, and where things we have already done with education [inaudible] where they are continuing.

But I just think it’s very important to be realistic about what we’re doing. But of course the things we achieved with education and health are lasting processes we made.

I just want to say that of course the international society has to stay on the course because the things not done by the end of 2014 --

Media: So when has the last Danish soldier left Afghanistan.

Foreign Minister Sovndal: The combat soldiers have left Afghanistan only days before the U.S. troops and they are left by the end of 2014. We stand clear on that plan.

Media: Mr. Karzai said recently he hoped the international forces to withdraw in 2013. How is this going to affect the strategy?

Foreign Minister Sovndal: I think you have to read Karzai into the present tragedy that happened with 16 civilians being killed. Of course as a leader you have to react on that. So I think it took him right into a very actual thing happening. I think you should also be aware that Karzai is probably one of the people who has an interest that international forces stay and follow the plan that’s made.

Ambassador Grossman: Thank you, Minister. I think I’d just follow on what the Minister said. You’ll notice that President Obama made a call to President Karzai last week. They had a conversation about precisely this point. I think it’s clear that President Karzai, along with the rest of us, looks to the Lisbon Plan.

That said, as the Minister just did, it’s absolutely right and logical and correct to say that there’s going to be some milestones in 2013 that will be different than in the past. Why is that? Because don’t forget that Lisbon talked about the transition to Afghan lead and security, and that transition will continue in 2013. Indeed, at the moment about 50 percent of Afghanistan’s population lives in places where the Afghans already have the lead. I would imagine that in 2013 more geography in Afghanistan will transition, maybe up to even 75 percent of the Afghan population and then ISAF forces, Danish forces, American forces, their job will change because the job is not the same in those areas that have been transitioned as it is in those areas that have yet to be transitioned.

I think the idea that it would be different in 2013, that there will be milestones that will be different in 2013 is absolutely right.

Media: It would be difficult to justify in the presence of international forces in 2014 and the leadership of Afghanistan once you’re out.

Ambassador Grossman: I think the leadership of Afghanistan, as the Minister said, are also focused on Lisbon. It’s very important I think for all of us to keep repeating for our publics and for Afghans as well, the Lisbon commitment. The Lisbon commitment runs to 2014.

The other thing that I would say is that as the Minister did, I think it’s worth thinking about the whole sequence of events here. Istanbul, as the Minister noted, which was the region speaking out for a secure, stable, prosperous Afghanistan inside of a secure, stable, prosperous region. The Bonn Conference which then allowed the international community to support the region. Going forward, Chicago and then Tokyo.

In Chicago and Tokyo is the effort to make the Bonn commitments real. They won’t stop, as the Minister said, on Christmas Day or New Year’s Day 2014. They’ll continue.

So there’s a lot of work to do in this transformational decade that people signed up to in Bonn.

Media: The killing of the 16 civilians, will it have any effect on the American involvement in Afghanistan?

Ambassador Grossman: Well, I think it will have some effect in the sense that we will obviously try to now look at our forces and make sure that they have the psychological support and the community support that they need. But I think in terms of the effort that we are making, no, we will continue to pursue the agreements that were made in Lisbon. We’ll continue to pursue the agreements that were made with the ISAF countries. So I think on a human level, people will, I’m sure, look at troops and consider their psychology and their support, but in terms of the effort itself, Lisbon continues to be the answer to the question.

Media: Mr. Ambassador, you talked about the funding for the Afghan Security Forces. You said a firm amount. What is needed after 2014?

Ambassador Grossman: Well, the Minister and I were talking a little bit about this. What we’re trying to do all together is come up with a number that’s based on a sufficient number of Afghan Security Forces, and a number that is able to pay for them. And so there’s a lot of talk at the moment about what’s the right number both in forces and in money.

So I’m sure the consultation we are making will come up with that number and that’s what you’ll see first at the jumbo ministerial of foreign ministers and defense ministers in April, and then certainly in Chicago.

Media: Do you think you can reach the necessary amount in Chicago?

Ambassador Grossman: Oh, I do. I believe that as people consider this question, and here’s the question. The question is, there’s been a huge amount of effort and sacrifice over the last 10 years. As the Ministers said, there’s also been great accomplishment in Afghanistan. What is the way to protect that accomplishment? The way to protect that accomplishment is to have an Afghan National Security Force -- army and police -- that’s sufficient to protect the people of Afghanistan and make sure that the efforts that we’ve made and that Afghans have made stay protected into the future.

So I think as people consider the past and how to protect the past into the future, they’ll make the contribution and we will have both a sufficient and a sustainable Afghan National Security Force.

Media: You both talked about the risk of setbacks when the international forces leave, where do you see the risks in these setbacks? Where are you afraid there will be setbacks?

Foreign Minister Sovndal: I think it’s just important to underline that there are a lot of difficult steps to take. You have to make the internal negotiations among the different political groups in Afghanistan. Of course, we hope that parts of the Taliban are going to participate in the political process. There might be parts who are not willing to. That’s one of the important items to handle.

The other important is the neighbors, the neighbor countries’ role, which role is Pakistan going to play? That’s of huge importance for the future of Afghanistan. But we are just in a place where we are building up to a transition. I think it’s important to underline that the world is not going to save their military after 2014. We’ll be there supporting and training but not as part of the heavy military combatants.

And of course we are not even, we’ve been present a lot of years in the situation where we have a very stable Afghanistan … as [inaudible] was saying. You have an Afghanistan which is better off than it was 10 years ago concerning health, children being educated, et cetera, et cetera. I think you have to watch very carefully also some of the democratic gains that have been made. Some of the women’s rights in Afghanistan. So we have to be very much aware of the developments taking place there. Nothing is granted, you could say.

Ambassador Grossman: May I just say for my part, first of all, I think the points the Minister makes are very important. But if I could connect your question with the previous question. I would say that the chances of setbacks goes up if you are insufficiently funding the Afghan National Security Forces and the chance of setbacks go down if we both have a sufficient and sustainable number of Afghan Security Forces, so that’s why the Danish initiative to try to make that true is so important. So these are related topics, I believe.

Foreign Minister Sovndal: Thank you very much for coming.

Ambassador Grossman: Thank you very much.

[This is a mobile copy of Remarks to the Media in Copenhagen]