WASHINGTON, Dec. 2, 2009 – NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen today welcomed President Barack Obama’s announcement of a new U.S. Afghanistan strategy and said he expects the alliance and its partners will make a “substantial increase” in their contributions.

“President Obama’s decision to substantially increase the numbers of U.S. forces in the NATO-led operation is proof of his resolve; the overall approach he laid out is a broader political strategy for success,” Rasmussen said. The United States’ contribution to the NATO-led mission has always been substantial; it is now even more important.”

The secretary general noted that Afghanistan is not a U.S. mission alone.

“America’s allies in NATO have shared the risks, costs and burdens of this mission from the beginning,” he said. “As the U.S. increases its commitment, I am confident that the other allies, as well as our partners in the mission, will also make a substantial increase in their contribution.”

On the eve of the a two-day meeting of NATO foreign ministers that begins tomorrow, Rasmussen called upon alliance members and partners to follow the U.S. example and increase their commitments.

“In 2010, the non-U.S. members of this mission will send at least 5,000 more soldiers, and probably more,” the secretary general said at a news conference in Brussels, Belgium. “At this very important moment, NATO must demonstrate its unity and its strength once again.”

Rasmussen said he has pressed allies and partners to fully resource NATO’s training mission in Afghanistan with a view toward helping to foster the transition to Afghans taking the lead. He also emphasized that the International Security Assistance Force mission would not end until Afghans are capable of securing and running their country themselves.

“Our strategy is very clear: to transfer lead responsibility for running their own country to the Afghans, as soon as possible,” the secretary general said. “But transition is not a code word for exit strategy. It means transition to a more supporting role [for allies and partners].”

Rasmussen added that more development assistance and a stepped-up effort on the civilian side of the effort would “create a new momentum in the mission in 2010.” At the upcoming foreign ministers meeting, he noted, allies and partners will discuss not only the military operation, but also the broader political strategy in Afghanistan, which includes the promotion of good governance throughout the country.

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