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Chiefs of Defence of more than 60 Countries together with NATO's Supreme Allied Commander for Operations and NATO's Supreme Allied Commander for Transformation attended, at various levels, the Autumn NATO Military Committee Meetings chaired by the Admiral Di Paola, Chairman of the Military Committee here Thursday.

NATO members, Euro Atlantic Partnership Council nations, the Mediterranean Dialogue countries and Ukraine had the opportunity to discuss a wide range of issues, taking stock of all NATO-led operations and missions to include ISAF, KFOR and maritime operations. In this context, particularly welcome were the presence throughout the meetings of the Chairman of the European Military Committee, Gen. Henri Bentegeat and the intervention during a special session of Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Pakistan Chief of Army Staff.

As usual, detailed discussions were devoted to operations, and in particular to the development of the situation in Afghanistan. The Military Committee confirmed that military operations alone will not provide a long-term answer to creating a secure and peaceful environment in Afghanistan, while only a comprehensive approach, involving all interested parties, will enable a successful outcome for the Afghan people. NATO will continue to engage the International Community in a coordinated effort to enable economical and social development, and the installation of good governance, to include the rule of law and human rights, constantly working towards an Afghan ownership. In this respect, NATO forces must continue to concentrate their efforts on civilian-military cooperation, and the training of the Afghan National Army through expert Military Liaison Teams – both these initiatives providing concrete results and a visible sign of the Afghan people building their own future. The Chiefs of Defence recognised that 2009 will be a crucial election year, and that nations must make a major effort to staff Military Liaison Teams.

NATO's Secretary General, HE Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, also addressed the Chiefs of Defence, and assured them of his "profound admiration for the quality of the people the nations have committed to ISAF, and what a remarkable job they are doing under difficult circumstances."

"In the context of a regional approach to Afghanistan, Pakistan is a key player," Admiral Di Paola said after a meeting with Gen Kayani, the Pakistan Chief of Army Staff, confirming that "a stable and peaceful Afghanistan is in the vital interest of Pakistan". Gen Kayani gave a frank and informative presentation to the Committee, in which he underlined the strong need for increased cooperation between his forces and those of ISAF. He emphasised the importance of understanding the geographical-cultural-historical background of the border regions and the population living there. He underlined the need to actively engage the Pakistan-Afghan border tribes to enable a better control of cross-border movement. Close military-to-military cooperation with Pakistan, specifically through the Tripartite Commission meetings between senior Afghanistan, Pakistan and NATO/ISAF Commanders, is key to regional security. The Committee and the Pakistan Chief of Army Staff both shared a common strategic approach solving the Afghanistan-Pakistan cross-border problems.

The Kosovo security situation was assessed as stable. The Chiefs of Defence were updated on the progress of the setting up of the Kosovo Security Forces, fundamental to the future security of Kosovo. The EULEX Head of Mission, Lieutenant General (R) Yves de Kermabon, participating by video-conference from Pristina, and General Bentegeat updated the Committee on the progress of the future EULEX mission. NATO/KFOR, UNMIK and EULEX staffs are fully cooperating to avoid any security gap during this transition period.

The Chiefs of Defence were also updated on Operation Allied Provider, NATO's current maritime operation to assist ships delivering humanitarian aid to Somalia, under the UN World Food Program. In response to the urgency of the UN's request, NATO worked quickly to deploy four ships from its Standing Maritime Forces to escort shipping in danger of pirate attack. This operation, although temporary, is proving very successful in protecting the delivery of humanitarian aids. Coordination is continuing with the EU, also in the view of the future European mission in the area (Operation Atalanta). It was noted that the threat to international maritime security is of global concern, and needs a broader approach.

The Mediterranean Dialogue countries confirmed the value of meetings at such a high level as the Chiefs of Defence as being a useful forum for discussions at a strategic level on issues of common interest. Military-to-military cooperation is an important tool for strengthening security and stability, also in relation to the maritime security challenges in the Mediterranean region.

Chiefs of Defence also reviewed the so-called Lines of Effort that focus on current military issues and are important for NATO's military transformation, covering, amongst others, a common NATO approach to defence planning. Much emphasis was also placed on capitalising on operational lessons learned, and including this knowledge into basic, preparatory training before employing personnel in mission. In the Euro Atlantic Partnership session, Austria gave a comprehensive presentation of lessons learned from participation in KFOR, from a national point of view. In relation to this, the importance of the role of the Joint Allied Lessons Learned Centre (JALLC) in Lisbon, and the recently agreed NATO policy on lessons learned were also discussed, with a view to further sharing experiences with Partners. The Serbian Chief of Defence, Lieutenant General Zdravko Ponos, briefed the Committee on the cooperation between the Serbian Armed Forces and NATO/KFOR. Admiral Di Paola said that this close cooperation was very valuable to the Alliance in enhancing regional stability.

Referring to a continued increase in NATO-Ukraine military cooperation, Admiral di Paola congratulated the Ukraine Chief of Defence, General Serhiy Kyrychenko saying, "There is no other NATO Partner giving such a strong contribution across all the NATO missions and operations as Ukraine." Admiral di Paola also underlined the value of Ukraine's participation in NATO's Response Force. General Serhiy Kyrychenko thanked the Military Committee for their appreciation of Ukraine's efforts to transform their forces, enabling them to participate so fully in NATO-led operations.

The Committee also discussed preparations for 2009, NATO's 60th anniversary year. NATO's Secretary General updated the Chiefs of Defence on the main issues that will dominate the anniversary year, pointing out the importance of the work of the Committee in providing essential military advice to the North Atlantic Council, and NATO Heads of State at the 2009 Summit.

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