NATO to continue combat mission till 2014: Gass
KABUL (PAN): A senior NATO representative for Afghanistan on Sunday said the alliance would continue its combat mission in the country until 2014, the previously agreed timeline for foreign soldiers withdrawal.
Talking to reporters a day after returning to Kabul from the NATO defence ministers conference in Brussels, the NATO senior civil representative for Afghanistan, Simon Gass said the issue of supporting Afghanistan beyond 2014 would be discussed in an upcoming conference in Chicago.
Gass remarks come days after the US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said the United States and NATO wanted to end their combat mission in Afghanistan next year, transitioning primarily to a training role in which Afghan security forces will take the lead.
"We will continue our combat mission, wherever it is needed" Gass said, referring to Panetta’s remarks.
The alliance would stay committed to the Lisbon summit, in which NATO member countries and Afghan government had agreed on a gradual handover of the security responsbility from foreigners to Afghan security forces, he added.
“So inevitably, as that process continues, there is a change in the balance between ISAF forces leading combat missions and the advising, training and supporting of Afghan forces which they also do.”
As an example, he said ISAF forces in the north were much more engaged now in advising and training Afghan security forces than leading the combat missions. The transition will become increasingly the case in other parts of Afghanistan, he added.
“But this is a gradual evolution which will continue all the way up to the end of 2014, it is not a sudden change,” he explained.
"What happens in 2013 is that at some point around the middle of the year we enter the fifth and final areas of the country which will be going into the transition process and at that point Afghan forces will be taking the responsibility for security across the whole of the country", he said.
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