Partnership with Kabul to continue: NATO chief
BRUSSELS (PAN): Defence Ministers from 50 nations contributing to the ISAF and representatives of the European Union and the United Nations are holding an important meeting at NATO headquarters to discuss the long-term international commitment to Afghanistan. General Joseph Dunford, who took over as ISAF commander on February 10, will brief participants on the overall security environment.
In his opening remarks, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that “the handover to Afghan security lead continues to make steady progress. The Afghan forces are demonstrating that they are capable, confident and in command. They are leading some 80 percent of operations.”
Last December, President Hamid Karzai announced that Afghan forces and police would take charge of security in a fourth group of Afghan provinces, cities and districts. With this decision, Afghan forces will be in the lead for protecting 87% of the population, the NATO secretary-general said.
“In a matter of months," he continued, "Afghan forces will assume lead security responsibility for all the population and they will lead all operations. By the end of 2014, they will be fully in charge of their own security across the country.
“But our partnership with Afghanistan will continue well beyond the end of transition and the end of our ISAF mission. We are preparing a new and different NATO-led mission after 2014 to train, advise and assist Afghan security forces,” he pointed out.
The meeting will consider a delay in implementing plans for slashing the strength of the 352,000-strong Afghan security force by a third after 2015.
At a press conference on 21 February, Rasmussen said: “First of all, no final decisions have been made. But I can confirm that it's one of the ideas that is being considered. I feel confident that we will be able to finance Afghan security forces of that size.”