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Obama, Karzai to discuss Afghan future on 20th

Obama, Karzai to discuss Afghan future on 20th

May 18, 2012 - 12:22

WASHINGTON (PANinfo-icon): US President Barack Obama would have a meeting with his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai on the sidelines of the NATOinfo-icon Summit in Chicago, a top presidential aide said on Thursday.

At the same time, officials noted, no bilateral talks were scheduled between Obama and his Pakistani counterpart Asif Ali Zardari, who would be attending the summit at the invitation of the NATO secretary-general.

“The first meeting that he (Obama) will have on Sunday will be with President Karzai of Afghanistaninfo-icon -- obviously an important meeting because a central focus of the NATO summit will be on Afghanistan and Afghanistan’s future. 

“So the first meeting of the day, appropriately, is going to be with President Karzai of Afghanistan,” US National Security Advisor Tom Donilon told reporters at a crowded White House news conference.

Leaders from more than 60 countries are attending the two-day summit on May 20-21. The meeting, Donilon said, was about the next steps in transition, the international community role after 2014 and sustainability of Afghan national forces.

Chicago would be a critical milestone in the next step toward a responsible end of the war, he added. “With respect to the next steps in transition…the alliance will decide that in 2013 the mission will shift for its forces.

“That is that the mission will shift from the ISAFinfo-icon forces, the United States forces, as part of ISAF, being in the combat lead to stepping back and getting into principally a train-and-advise mode, with the Afghans going into the combat lead all over the country.”

Secondly, the advisor said, there would be a discussion of, and agreement on, the structure and sustainability of Afghan national forces. The participants will debate what their size should be, what the mission should be and how the forces will be paid for.

Currently the strength of Afghan forces is 330,000, which would surge up to 352,000. “We will then, at some point after 2014, start to go down to a sustainable level -- and we're working through the modelling on that -- of Afghan forces that'll be the level that will be required, as assessed by our military in conjunction with the Afghans, going forward.”

Donilon estimated the cost of sustaining such a force at $4 billion a year. The US has been working with its ISAF partners to get multiyear commitments from them. “We have had over 30 countries make commitments,” he claimed. Some of the countries like Britain ($110 million a year), Australia ($100 million) and Germany ($195 million a year) had already announced their commitment.

Thirdly, he continued, the summit would focus on the nature of the foreign presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014. After an end to ISAF’s combat mission, NATO will decide on its plans and there will be a discussion about a much smaller-size NATO training, assisting and advising mission.

Donilon said: “We also want to get to a place where we achieve our core goal. And our core goal is the strategic defeat of Al Qaida, so that it no longer presents a threat to the United States, our allies or our interests. And as you know, this has been a central part of the foreign policy of the United States, especially in terms of its focus, since we've come into office…”


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