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    Ministers’ removal won’t derail transition: NATO

    KABUL (PAN): Assuaging concerns over the withdrawal of foreign troops, NATO on Monday renewed pledged Afghanistan would be allowed never again to become a safe haven for terrorists.

    “That is what everyone is working on together jointly now, never allowing Afghanistan to become a safe haven for terrorists,” a spokesman for the NATO senior civilian representative said.

    Dominic Medley said the transition strategy, the pledge of a NATO training mission after 2014 and the international community’s commitment were the building blocks to ensure that Afghanistan never again became a terrorist safe haven.

    Addressing a media briefing in Kabul, Medley hoped the process of security transition would not be affected by the removal of defence and interior ministers. He called transition the right strategy for Afghanistan that was agreed at Lisbon and reinforced at Chicago.

    “Everyday across the government - at the Transition Coordination Commission under Dr Ashraf Ghani, at the Ministry of Defence - ministers, deputies and many other officials are working on transition, to keep it on track and to keep it moving forward.

    “There is now a tremendous strength and depth of skill, knowledge and experience about the transition process. It is agreed at Lisbon, agreed at Chicago, it is the right strategy for Afghanistan because it is agreed by both sides. So, it is on track and remains on track.”

    He tended to parry a question about cross-border incursions from Pakistan into eastern Afghanistan. “You would not expect me to say anything different from my colleague, General Katz. You would not expect me as a civilian spokesman to comment on military operations or intelligence.”

    Medley added the NATO-led force had a United Nations Security Council mandate and all ISAF countries, and Afghanistan and Pakistan, were members of the world body.

    “General Katz provided very specific answers of the ISAF position with regards to Afghanistan, Pakistan and ISAF; the relationship and the cooperation that exists and must and will continue to ensure that this region is stable for the future and that everyone is at ease living in this region.”

    In his opening remarks, the spokesman referred to the global fraternity’s long-term commitment to Afghanistan, acknowledging that after decades of conflict and upheaval, the work there was never finished.

    As more and more of Afghanistan came under the leadership of Afghan forces, the ISAF missions shifted into a support role, with combat capability for the next two and half years, he added.

    Recent events, including NATO’s Chicago summit, the Heart of Asia Ministerial Conference in Kabul and the Tokyo Conference set out the vision for international economic support for Afghanistan and a process for mutual accountability, he believed.

    He also commended the Afghan Olympic athletes competing in the London event. “Afghans have competed in Athens, Beijing and now London in the last ten years. Who would ever have imagined that was possible a decade ago.”

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