Wardak hints at cut in Afghan forces’ strength
WASHINGTON (PAN): Ahead of the next phase of security transition, strengthening Afghan forces needs to be a key priority for Kabul and the international community, top Afghan and US officials agreed on Tuesday.
The understating was reached during the third US-Afghanistan Security Consultations Forum held at the Pentagon, which was hosted by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.
The Afghan delegation was led by the Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak and Minister of Interior Bismellah Mohammadi.
Wadak said Kabul and its international supporters had agreed in principle on cutting the strength of Afghan forces to about 230,000 personnel after the ISAF mission came to an end in 2014.
“The ministers agreed that continuing to build Afghan National Security Forces is a key priority for Afghanistan and the international community,” the Pentagon said.
Panetta will discuss plans to support a sufficient and sustainable post-transition Afghan force with fellow ISAF ministers at the upcoming Ministerial in Brussels next week, and with leaders at the NATO Summit in Chicago in May.
The meetings included a review of the security gains across Afghanistan and the progress toward transition to the Afghan forces, the Pentagon added,
Panetta said 2011 was a turning point when they were able to see that the Afghan army and police developed the capabilities to provide security and implement the necessary operations.
“The fact that they have been able to do that is in many ways a compliment to both of you for your leadership and for the leadership of Afghanistani officials that have had a responsibility to ensure that you are able to develop the kind of security operations that are essential to our ability to make the transition,” he added.
Acknowledging that Afghanistan stands at a critical juncture, Wardak said after years of struggle, the goal was in sight. “What matters today is our wealth. The costs have been high and the stakes even higher, but the good news is that hope has been replaced by real progress.”
The continued US support and cooperation would play a decisive role in enabling Afghans to smoothly sail to a to a sound foundation through the transformation decade and beyond, Wardak remarked.
Speaking through an interpreter, Mohammadi said during the past decade Afghanistan had had achieved many successes, particularly during the last year, vis-a-vis security advancements.
“We have seen many victories in southern Afghanistan, in eastern Afghanistan, in all of Afghanistan. This visit that we have embarked upon during a time of destiny, during a time that we're going through a transitional processes,” he concluded.
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