NATO rules out change in security switch timetable
BRUSSELS (PAN): NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen on Wednesday inaugurated a meeting of defence and foreign ministers from member states in Brussels on security transition to Afghan forces.
Afghanistan’s ministers are also attending the two-day meeting that will discuss funding Afghan security forces after the withdrawal of international troops from the war-torn country in 2014.
Ministers from Afghanistan, the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany and other member would confer on important issues concerning Afghanistan’s future, a top NATO official in Belgium told Pajhwok Afghan News.
He said Gen. John R Allen, the US and international soldier’s top commander in Afghanistan, and NATO's Senior Civilian Representitive Simon Gass would highlight the political situation and progress in Afghanistan at the conference.
The official billed 2013 as an important year for Afghanistan, where the process of security transition would enter a final phase and Afghans themselves would take full control of the nation’s security. However, the international community will continue to play a supportive role after the 2014 departure.
On the first day of the conference, NATO countries would discuss their own matters and on the second day Afghanistan’s issues would be on their agenda, he added.
“We are just one month away from our Chicago summit. So this is the time to make sure our preparations are on track as we enter the final stretch,” Rasmussen said at the start of the ministerial meetings.
He ruled out any change in the ongoing security transition process, saying the alliance would see to it that the transfer was completed on schedule.
The ministers will discuss the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan. On April 19, the foreign ministers of the 22 non-NATO ISAF countries will join the meeting to discuss how to make sure that the transition to full Afghan security responsibility succeeds.
“We will continue to support the Afghan security forces beyond 2014,” the secretary general promised, saying the alliance would also continue to support Afghanistan financially as part of the broader international effort.
“We must make sure we maintain the gains made with so much investment in lives and resources and even in tough times. Supporting the Afghan forces is a good deal in financial and political terms,” he added.
The conference will focus on three important issues -- security transition from foreign soldiers to Afghan security forces, assessment of political affairs and funding Afghan security forces after international soldiers leave the country.
The participants of the conference would also discuss the Afghan forces’ strength beyond 2014 -- a deadline for foreign troops’ pullout, said an Afghan envoy, who did not want to be named.
On the issue of funding Afghan forces, Washington is seeking help from its partners to contribute $1 billion (£630 million) a year, while US would channel about $3 billion yearly in support.
The meeting is a prelude to the Chicago Summit in late May, where NATO members will decide on their commitment to Afghan security forces beyond 2014.
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