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    Rasmussen: Afghan forces strenghthened

     BRUSSELS (PAN): With the current situation in Afghanistan on its omnibus agenda, a two-day meeting of NATO defence ministers began in this Belgian capital on Thursday.

    Afghan Defence Minister Gen. Bismillah Mohammadi is among the participants, who will confer on NATO’s defence capabilities, the ISAF mission in Afghanistan and relations with Ukraine.

    Being attended by defence ministers from the 28 member countries, the meeting got under way with the opening remarks of NATO secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

    Rasmussen said since the launch of security transition two years ago, the Afghan forces had considerably grown in strength and capabilities. They are taking the lead for security in areas where 87 percent of the population lived, he added.

    “ISAF is our biggest mission. And over the years, it has driven the modernisation of our own forces. They have adapted to every challenge. And they have learned to work together more closely, and effectively, than ever before,” the Danish diplomat remarked.

    Also on the agenda is the Connected Forces Initiative, which was launched at the Chicago Summit in May 2012 to reinforce the skills of cooperation and interoperability between allied forces over a decade of operations through a reinforced programme of exercises.

    The event, offering an opportunity to take stock of progress on the plans to improve allied defence capabilities, also includes discussions on broader defence issues.

    On Friday, the ministerial session will discuss the NATO-Ukraine Commission. The body will focus on how NATO and Ukraine can boost their defence cooperation.

    Representatives of the 50 ISAF partner countries, Afghanistan, European Union and United Nations will join the ministers on Friday.

    The mission in Afghanistan and the ongoing process of transition to Afghan security responsibility will figure prominently during tomorrow’s session.

    General Joseph Dunford, who took over as ISAF commander on February 10, will brief the participants on the current mission and Afghan forces’ capabilities.

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