Washington: Member nations of the powerful NATO, including the United States and its other international partners, would not walk away from Afghanistan after 2014 when all the international forces withdraw from this war-torn country, the NATO chief has said.
"Once the Afghans have full responsibility by the end of 2014, our combat mission will come to an end. But we will not walk away. Once transition is completed, NATO will lead a new mission, to train, advice and support the Afghan security forces," NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told reporters at a news conference in Chicago yesterday.
Addressing a news conference at the end of the first day of the NATO Summit in Chicago, he said that the discussions would focus on Afghanistan, adding the meeting, attended by 60 world leaders, will send a strong signal of commitment to the Afghan people.
"We have taken important steps on the road to a stable and secure Afghanistan. As we agreed with President Karzai in Lisbon, our shared goal is for the Afghan forces to be fully responsible for their country`s security by the end of 2014. And we are on track," Rasmussen said.
The Afghan forces are already in the lead for providing security for half the population and soon, that will rise to over 75 percent, he said.
"By the middle of 2013, we expect the Afghan forces to be taking the lead for security right across the country. As they step forward, our focus will shift from combat to support - but we will remain combat-ready," the NATO chief said.
Responding to questions, Rasmussen hoped that the international community would come forward to meet the target of USD 4.1 billion per annum to fund the sustenance of the Afghan national security forces.
A number of allies and partners have announced concrete financial contributions for Afghan security forces after 2014, he said.
"Based on these announcement, and more would come I am sure, I am optimistic about reaching the overall goal of finding around USD 4 billion a year to finance the Afghan security forces in the future," he said.
"Let me stress that USD 4 billion a year is not a responsibility of NATO and ISAF alone. It`s a responsibility of the whole of the international community, but I am sure NATO allies and ISAF partners would pay a fair share of this overall bill. We are on the right track," Rasmussen said.