ISAF’s combat role to end in 2014
CHICAGO/WASHINGTON (PAN): The combat mission of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) would come to an end in 2014 when the Afghans would take full lead of their security, US President Barack Obama and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Monday.
Addressing a galaxy of world leaders on the concluding day of the Chicago summit, Obama and Rasmussen urged the international community to come forward and help them sustain Afghan security forces post-2014, when foreign troops are to withdraw from the country.
“Today we'll decide the next phase of transition, the next milestone. We'll set a goal for Afghan forces to take the lead for combat operations across the country in 2013, so that ISAF can move to a supporting role. This role will be another step toward Afghans taking full lead for their security,” Obama said.
The participating countries could agree on NATO's long-term relationship with Afghanistan beyond 2014, including their support of Afghan forces, he added.
“Over the past two years we've made important progress. Our forces broke the Taliban's momentum, more Afghans are reclaiming their communities, Afghan forces have grown stronger, and the transition that we agreed to in Lisbon is well under way.”
The president welcomed President Karzai's announcement of the third group of areas to begin transition, meaning that 75 percent of the Afghan people lived in areas where their own forces would be moving into the lead.
Before the start of the opening session, Karzai was seen talking to Pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and a host of other world leaders.
Flanked by Obama and Karzai, Rasmussen said in the course of next year, they expected to see Afghan security forces in the lead for combat operations across the country -- a significant marker toward completing the journey of transition.
“As the Afghan forces step up, our forces will step back into a supporting role, focusing on training, advising and assisting our Afghan partners," the secretary-general said.
He expected the participating nations to reaffirm their commitment to the long-term financial sustainment of the Afghan forces. A number of NATO and ISAF partners have already made pledges to help meet their costs.
"From 2015, we expect to maintain a NATO-led presence to train, advise and assist Afghan forces. And NATO and ISAF nations will also pay their fair share to help sustain the Afghan army and police needs for the future," he said.
This is the largest gathering of world leaders at a NATO Summit, which is being attended by more than 60 leaders from NATO and ISAF nations, as well as Russia, Japan and Central Asian countries are being joined by heads of international organisations, including the UN, the European Union and the World Bank.
Despite President Asif Ali Zardari's presence at the summit, Islamabad and Washington have been unable to agree on reopening key supply routes for ISAF soldiers in Afghanistan.
In November last year, Pakistan closed the supply lines in protest against a US airstrike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in the Mohmand tribal region near the Afghan border.
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