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No rush to the exits in Afghanistan: NATO Chief

Last Updated: Sunday, May 20, 2012 - 23:42

Washington: The NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen on Sunday said that the alliance would not rush out of Afghanistan despite France`s plans to withdraw combat troops quickly from the war-torn country.

"There will be no rush for the exits," Rasmussen told reporters in Chicago as leaders of more than 60 countries gathered in this city to attend the NATO Summit meeting, which would chalk out the road map for the future of Afghanistan.

"Our goal, our strategy, our timetable remains unchanged."

Rasmussen said he is not surprised that newly elected President of France, Francois Hollande, has remained committed to his pledges to withdraw his country`s troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year.

However, he noted the new French president has stated to remain committed to Afghanistan in a different way.

The Afghan President, Hamdi Karzai, and his Pak counterpart, Asif Ali Zardari, are among the key world leaders attending the key global conference being hosted by US President Barack Obama.

Rasmussen said the two-day NATO Summit here has three keep priorities, keeping Afghanistan secure, keeping NATO strong and keeping the global network and partners solid.

"I feel confident that we will maintain solidarity within the coalition," he said.

"I would appreciate if ISAF and NATO partners would continue to contribute to the NATO led training mission that would start in 2015," he said.

Rasmussen said the clear message from this summit would be that NATO stays committed to their operation in Afghanistan, they would continue to transfer, hand over lead responsibilities to the Afghans according to the plan that they have laid out in Lisbon in 2010.

"This process has already started. Today, around half of the Afghan population lives where Afghans have lead responsibilities.

This process would be completed by the end of 2014 and that would also be the massage from this summit that we would continue with the transition process to the process already laid out," he said.

On the first day of the meeting, Rasmussen said NATO Summit would focus on security in the age of austerity.

?We will ensure that the alliance has the capabilities to deal with the security challenges of the future even as we tackle the economic challenges of the present," he said.


First Published: Sunday, May 20, 2012 - 23:42

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