WASHINGTON (April 5, 2016) — President Barack Obama and NATO Secretary General Jens
Stoltenberg met yesterday to discuss alliance and U.S. efforts to defeat the
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, NATO support to Afghanistan and issues
related to Russia.
The White House meeting also marked
the 67th anniversary of the founding of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Defeating ISIL was at the top of the
agenda. “We agreed that one of the most important functions that NATO is
performing and can continue to perform is to help in the training and assisting
process for troops in Iraq, in Jordan, in many of the areas in the region,”
Obama said during a joint news conference with Stoltenberg.
The president also said the alliance
is looking at potential operations in areas such as Libya where ISIL has gained
a foothold, but where the “beginnings of a government” would mean allies on the
ground. “We can, I think, provide enormous help in helping to stabilize those
countries,” Obama said.
The men also spoke about
Afghanistan, where NATO has been manning the Resolute Support Mission. “The
coalition there continues to focus on assisting the government and the Afghan
national security forces, building up capacity, pushing back against the Taliban
and helping Afghans to provide security for their own country and, hopefully,
being able to arrive at some sort of political settlement that would end
decades of conflict and violence there,” the president said.
Russia’s continued aggression on
NATO’s eastern flank also was a topic. Russia must stop its continued
operations in eastern Ukraine and respect the sovereignty of all countries, the
NATO allies must know the United
States will stand by them and that America has deployed “concrete assets that
let them know that Article 5 means something, and that we stand by our
commitments to our allies,” he said. Article 5 of the Washington Treaty, which
established NATO, states that an attack against one alliance member is
considered an attack on all.
“And I have in my budget put forward
a quadrupling of the resources that we spend, and allocated a portion of that
money to make sure that we've got ground brigades that send a clear message
about our commitments to our NATO allies to the east,” Obama added.
Stoltenberg said the alliance has
adapted to changes in the world and will adapt in the future as NATO grapples
with countering terrorism. “Terrorism affects us all, from Brussels to San
Bernardino, and all NATO allies contribute to the U.S.-led efforts to degrade
and destroy ISIL,” the secretary general said. “Just last week, we started
training Iraqi officers, and we will continue to support the efforts of the
United States and other countries to fight ISIL.”
Stoltenberg welcomed the new government
in Libya and said the alliance stands ready to provide support.
Importance of Unity
NATO’s effort in Afghanistan is the
alliance’s biggest military operation ever, the secretary general said. “It
shows the importance of unity in North America and Europe, because our military
operation in Afghanistan is a direct response to the terrorist attack against
the United States on 9/11,” he said. “And European [and] Canadian soldiers have
fought together with the American soldiers in Afghanistan for many, many
The Resolute Support Mission
includes around 13,000 troops and 42 nations contributing to the effort to help
Afghanistan. Of those, 6,800 Americans are part of the NATO-led force.
The secretary general said he will
work with allies to make good on the pledge they made in the NATO’s 2014 summit
in Wales to increase defense spending.
“We will meet again [in July] in Warsaw at our
summit,” Stoltenberg said. “We have a lot to do, but I'm certain that we will
deliver, because we have seen time and again that North America and Europe
[are] able to deliver when we stand together in a strong NATO alliance.”