NATO Finalizing Long-Term Commitment in Afghanistan

Posted April 18th, 2012 at 6:30 pm (UTC-5)
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NATO's chief says coalition members have begun outlining their future commitments to Afghanistan after international combat troops leave the country by a 2014 deadline.

During Wednesday's meeting of NATO foreign and defense ministers in Brussels, Secretary-General Anders-Fogh Rasmussen told reporters that a number of member-states put forward planned financial contributions to Afghan security forces.

He said the alliance and its partners are on track to hand over most combat operations to Afghan forces next year, and to end the large-scale foreign military role by the end of 2014.

Top U.S. and NATO officials are at NATO headquarters finalizing plans to withdraw the remaining 130,000 foreign combat troops from Afghanistan and figuring out how to pay for an effective Afghan security force. The two-day meeting lays the groundwork for a summit of NATO leaders in Chicago next month.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who attended Wednesday's meeting, said the United States will work with the Afghans to make sure local forces are fully funded. Panetta said history proves that “insurgencies are defeated not by foreign troops but by indigenous forces.”

On Tuesday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said he wants, as part of a strategic partnership agreement, a written guarantee from the United States that it will provide $2 billion a year to fund Afghan security forces after the 2014 security handover. Rasmussen and U.S. officials have suggested the costs could come closer to $4 billion a year.

“You're right that a figure around four billion U.S. dollars a year has been mentioned. I would like to stress that neither this ministers' meeting nor the Chicago summit will be a pledging conference, but I would expect that at the Chicago summit we will get a clear picture of the commitment to financing the Afghan Security Forces.”

Insurgents in Afghanistan have been stepping up attacks, casting doubts on claims of progress. But officials say that although the Taliban can launch spectacular attacks, its overall capabilities have been significantly degraded in recent years.

On Wednesday, an Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman said Afghans will be ready to take the lead on security by the end of 2013. He added that the number of Afghan National Army soldiers has reached 195,000. There are currently more than 320,000 Afghan troops and police.

Defense Secretary Panetta told reporters in Brussels that Afghans have been leading night counterterrorism operations since December and that in less than six months, Afghans will take control of detention centers from U.S. and NATO forces.