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NATO Chief Calls On Defense Ministers To Focus On Allied Defense Capabilities

2/21/2013 11:51 AM ET

Allies must make sure they maintain and build on the gains they made in interoperability and capabilities during the Afghan mission, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said ahead of a two-day meeting of NATO defense ministers on Thursday.

The ISAF mission has, over the years, driven the modernization of Allied forces, said the Secretary General. "They have adapted to every challenge and they have learned to work together more closely and effectively than ever before," he told reporters as he arrived for the meeting in Brussels. "Now we must ensure that we maintain those gains. And that we build on them. So that the next generation of NATO troops is as good at working together as the current generation has become," he added.

Work to improve NATO's defense capabilities, the ISAF mission in Afghanistan and relations with Ukraine are the main points on the agenda of the ministerial. The 28 defense ministers of NATO nations will discuss progress on the Connected Forces Initiative (CFI).

Rasmussen, who will chair the talks, said he expects the ministerial to move the CFI forward, by discussing goals and targets for an intensified training and exercises program. This is expected to include a new emphasis on the rapid-reaction NATO Response Force.

On Afghanistan, the Secretary General emphasized that the hand-over of security to Afghan Security Forces is making steady progress.

A session of the NATO-Ukraine Commission and talks on the Afghan mission with the representatives of the 22 partner countries in ISAF, the Afghan defense minister and representatives of the European Union and United Nations will be held on Friday.

by RTT Staff Writer

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