SPIEGEL: Mr. Secretary General, the NATO mission in Afghanistan has not been going well in the last few years. Now US President Barack Obama has. He is deploying 30,000 additional troops and is calling on allies to make additional sacrifices. Does this signify a new beginning?
SPIEGEL: What does that mean?
Rasmussen: We will deploy at least 37,000 additional soldiers, and presumably even more. At the same time, we want to gradually turn over responsibility for the country's security to Afghan soldiers and police. And we need to increase our efforts to train them. It is the responsibility of Afghanistan's new government to gain better control over the country's administration and to resolutely fight the drug trade and corruption. And many countries and organizations have pledged to contribute to civil reconstruction. The European Union already has an action plan, and Japan has pledged $5 billion (€3.4 billion). All of this together adds new momentum to our mission. You'll see, things will soon begin moving ahead in Afghanistan.
SPIEGEL: The displeasure among the populations of the NATO countries involved in the war is growing even more quickly than your commitment. About 70 percent of Germans favor a rapid withdrawal of their troops. How long can democratically governed nations wage a war opposed by a majority of their populations?
Rasmussen: I believe that people understand very well why we are in Afghanistan…
SPIEGEL: … and why, then, are they in favor of a rapid withdrawal?
Rasmussen: I believe that they understand that, with our troops, we must prevent Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven and pullback area for terrorists. Otherwise, they could use it as a base from which to advance into Central Asia and further. In addition, they would continue to destabilize neighboring Pakistan, a nuclear power. All of this would be very, very dangerous, both for others and for us.