`Zardari got message it`s important to reopen NATO route`

Pakistan President was invited by NATO to attend summit in part because of Pakistan is a central contributor to the mission, said Ivo Daalder.

Washington: Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari has got the message at the just concluded NATO Summit in Chicago that it is important to reopen ground lines of communication to Afghanistan, a top US diplomat said.

"He (Zardari) got the message that it was important that the ground lines of communication, which are the shortest way to get supplies in and out of Afghanistan, be opened and opened soon," US Ambassador to NATO, Ivo Daalder, told reporters at Council on Foreign Relations, a prestigious American think tank.

Daaldar said NATO members and its allies look forward to a decision to that effect in the very near future.

Zardari, he said, was invited by NATO to attend meeting of the ISAF countries, in part because of Pakistan is a central contributor to the mission and to their goals in Afghanistan.

"He did attend; he made very strong, supportive statement for our efforts in Afghanistan, including on reconciliation side," he said.

"We are in a very active and in-depth set of dialogues with Pakistan to find ways in which we can cooperate to deal with the problems that exist in order to make sure that our strategy in Afghanistan will succeed," the diplomat said.

"That`s we are trying to open the ground lines of communication. That`s why we have and will continue to find ways to cooperate in dealing with the terrorist threat. That is a commitment that remains strong today, tomorrow, till 2014 and after 2014," Daalder said.

"As a result, I think we have a focus on this, and we continue to focus on this, realising that the transition strategy in Afghanistan needs to continue, because ultimately if the Afghans can`t stand up by themselves with us not at the side, it doesn`t matter what happens in the other parts of the world," he said.

Daaldar said they were focused on Pakistan and making sure that not only the strategy in Afghanistan works, but that it works within the region as such.

On Afghanistan, he said the focus is now shifting from a combat to support.
"Then by the end of 2014, we should be in a position in which Afghan forces are fully responsible for security, and enable the ISAF mission that has been in place since 2004 to end. So we agreed here that we are winding down the war, as President Obama put it yesterday," he said.

"We also looked at what is the post-2014 or post-transition commitment that NATO should make. And we agreed that the international community should sustain the Afghan security forces.”

"We identified that a sustainable level would be something around USD 4 billion, and we affirmed that this was a commitment that the Afghan government, the international community and the US would need to share. Up to this point, the US has been responsible for 90 percent to 95 percent of the cost of sustaining and building the ANSF, the Afghan forces. In the future, from 2015 onwards, this will be a shared responsibility," he said.

"We also agreed that, after 2014, there would have to be a new mission, one focused on training, advising and assisting of the Afghan forces -- not a combat mission, but a training mission. And we agreed that we would establish such a mission after 2014. So that`s Afghanistan, a major move forward on there," the US Ambassador said.

PTI

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