NATO sticking to 2014 Afghan pullout date for now

Last Updated: Tuesday, January 31, 2012 - 10:47

Brussels: A NATO`s top official has said that
the alliance will adhere to its plans to hand over security to
local forces in Afghanistan by the end of 2014, comments that
came after France said it would push NATO to speed up its
timeline for the handover of combat operations by a year.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen acknowledged
that the final transition phase, which involves handing over
lead responsibility for provinces and districts to Afghan
authorities, would start from "mid-2013." A number of areas
and towns already have been handed over to the Afghan army and
police since the transition started a year ago.

Nonetheless, the overall NATO plan is still pegged on a
2014 pullout date, Fogh Rasmussen said yesterday after a
meeting with Romanian President Traian Basescu.

"We will stick to the roadmap that was outlined at the
NATO summit in Lisbon in 2010, according to which we will
gradually hand over lead responsibility to the Afghans, a
process that has been started and hopefully will be completed
by the end of 2014," Fogh Rasmussen said.

Last week, French President Nicolas Sarkozy jolted NATO by
announcing France would speed up its exit and ask NATO to end
its combat mission in 2013. The announcement came after an
Afghan soldier killed 4 French soldiers on Jan 20.

The move was seen as the latest crack in a coalition
already strained by economic troubles in Europe and the United
States, the Afghan government`s sluggish battle against
corruption, and a Taliban insurgency that remains unbeaten
after more than a decade of war.

It`s unclear if Sarkozy`s call for all foreign forces to
hand security over to the Afghan forces in 2013 will have
traction when is presented on Thursday and Friday at a NATO
defense ministers` meeting in Brussels. Britain and Germany
have already indicated they would stick to the 2014 timeline.

Basescu said Romania, with a contingent of 1,900 troops,
will focus on training Afghanistan`s paramilitary police
forces.

Fogh Rasmussen said "there is nothing new" in the fact
that from mid-2013 the role of coalition forces in Afghanistan
will start changing from combat to a support role.

NATO is speeding up the training of the Afghan security
forces, which are due to gradually expand to over 350,000
members. But incidents in which Afghan soldiers have turned on
NATO troops have raised fears of increased Taliban
infiltration of the Afghan police and army.

PTI



First Published: Tuesday, January 31, 2012 - 10:47

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