NATO to assist Afghanistan beyond 2014
BRUSSELS (PAN): NATO foreign ministers, at a two-day meeting that began in Belgium on Thursday, vowed to continue supporting Afghanistan beyond 2014, when all foreign are scheduled to leave the war-hit country.
The meeting in Brussels was attended by foreign ministers of member states together with non-NATO, troop-contributing nations. Afghan Foreign Minister Dr. Zalmai Rassoul was also in attendance. The meeting discussed issues concerning Afghanistan, Russia and Kosovo.
Afghan foreign ministry spokesman, Janan Musazai, told a press conference in Brussels NATO states had once again renewed their commitment toward Afghanistan and voiced support for its security forces until 2024.
A joint Afghan-NATO plan regarding strengthening security forces would be finalised ahead of the alliance's next meeting in Chicago in May, he said. The Chicago session would discuss long-term commitments of NATO countries to Afghan forces, Musazai explained.
He said long-term cooperation was aimed at training and equipping Afghan forces, countering terrorism and brining peace and stability. He continued the message conveyed at the meeting was loud and clear: NATO's commitment would continue after the planned withdrawal of international troops in 2014
He touted the second Bonn conference a great achievement for Afghanistan, saying the summit helped the country deepen its relationship with the outside world. Foreign leaders pledged continued military, political, economic and regional cooperation at the talks, he insisted.
The pledges held out in Bonn were meant to rebuild Afghanistan and strengthen its nascent democracy, the spokesman said. In return, Afghanistan has to intensify efforts at banishing administrative corruption, improving and Afghanising the election system and ensuring good governance.
He promised Kabul would try to preserve the gains achieved over the past decade and overcome all challenges until 2024. Musazai characterised Afghan promises as serious and honest, saying it was a matter of time to keep them.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told the meeting the international community had reiterated its commitment to Afghanistan's future at the Bonn conference.
"Today we will endeavour to add clarity to our collective intentions to support Afghanistan throughout and into the transformation decade," he remarked.
At last year's NATO summit in Lisbon, Rasmussen had noted members' pledge to remain engaged in Afghanistan beyond 2014 after ISAF's withdrawal.
"At our next summit in Chicago, we will give substance to that pledge by agreeing a package of concrete assistance measures. We are committed to Afghanistan and its future," he added.
The meeting hailed President Karzai’s recent announcement on the second set of areas to be transferred to full Afghan security responsibility. It noted the decision would soon see Afghan army and police starting to provide security for over 50 percent of the population.
"We have the momentum. To keep it will demand continued commitment and support. And this is what we are determined to provide," Rasmussen told the participants.
The 28 foreign ministers will also meet on Thursday with their Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov to discuss closer cooperation on Afghanistan.
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