I visited Brussels on Tuesday 9 and Wednesday 10 October for the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Defence Ministers’ Meeting on Afghanistan.
The Ministerial meeting in Brussels followed on from my visit to Afghanistan earlier in the week with Secretary Lewis and General Hurley.
Ministers discussed progress in implementing the 2010 Lisbon Summit agreement to transition to Afghan led security responsibility by the end of 2014. Today seventy-five percent of the Afghan population lives in areas under transition to Afghan security lead.
Ministers agreed to commence the detailed planning for the post 2014 mission to train, advise and assist the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) agreed to at the Chicago Summit in May. Ministers also discussed the need to establish the funding mechanism for the international community's contribution to the sustainment of the ANSF.
Ministers discussed the recent insider or "green on blue" attacks. Whatever the motivation for these attacks, the Taliban tactic is to claim them as their own for propaganda purposes. These attacks cannot be allowed to deflect the international community from the agreed transition strategy and post 2014 commitment.
I met with the newly confirmed Afghan Defence Minister Bismillah Khan. Minister Khan conveyed Afghanistan's condolences for the recent Australian fatalities in Afghanistan and expressed his countries' gratitude for Australia's ongoing contribution and commitment.
I congratulated NATO Secretary General Rasmussen on the extension of his tenure. Secretary General Rasmussen is a good friend of Australia and signed the Australia-NATO Strategic Partnership Declaration with Prime Minister Gillard during his visit to Australia in June.
I met Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) Admiral Stavridis, Commander ISAF General Allen and Commander ISAF designate General Dunford. I thanked Admiral Stavridis for his service and congratulated General Allen and General Dunford on their nominations as the next SACEUR and COMISAF respectively. I also met the newly appointed NATO Senior Civilian Representative Ambassador Jochems.
I have every confidence in the ability of the new NATO/ISAF leadership team to deliver on the transition and post-transition strategies in Afghanistan.
I discussed with Secretary Panetta our collaborative work on a range of issues, including the recently concluded first rotational deployment of United States Marines to Darwin.
I met Belgian Defence Minister De Crem and discussed the forthcoming Belgian trade delegation to Australia led by the Belgian Crown Prince.
I discussed the MRH-90 and Tiger Helicopter projects with French Minister Le Drian.
I met Spanish Defence Minister Eulate and discussed progress on the Landing Helicopter Dock project and the impending arrival of LHD1 in Australia.
I discussed our mutual interests in submarines with Swedish Defence Minister Enstrom.
I met Turkish Defence Minister Yilmaz and discussed planning for our shared commemoration of World War One.
I also met a range of NATO Defence Ministers, including Danish Defence Minister Haekkerup, Dutch Defence Minister Hillen, Finnish Defence Minister Haglund, Norwegian Defence Minister Strom-Erichsen and Polish Defence Minister Siemoniak.
I was accompanied by Australia’s Ambassador to NATO, Dr Brendan Nelson, the Secretary of the Department of Defence, Mr Duncan Lewis and the Chief of the Defence Force, General David Hurley.
My visit to Brussels was a good opportunity to introduce Australia's Ambassador-designate to NATO, Mr Duncan Lewis, to his NATO colleagues and to thank Dr Brendan Nelson for his excellent service.
Imagery is available at http://images.defence.gov.au/fotoweb/grid.fwx?ArchiveID=5003&Search=12131315
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