NATO Leaders Solidify Plans for Afghan Transition

Posted May 21st, 2012 at 5:50 pm (UTC-5)
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NATO leaders, attending a two-day summit in Chicago, have solidified plans for the “irreversible transition” in Afghanistan.

The final summit declaration issued Monday calls for the international community to commit to the long-term sustainment of Afghan security forces, saying funding will be guided by principles including transparency, accountability, and measures against corruption.

The document ratifies plans for the NATO-led troops to hand over command of all combat missions to Afghan forces by mid-2013 and for the withdrawal of most combat troops by the end of 2014. It also declares that while NATO will maintain a significant presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014, the combat mission will end.

A major NATO objective was agreeing on reliable commitments to help support Afghanistan going forward to make sure that, as U.S. President Barack Obama put it, “hard-won progress is preserved.” Mr. Obama also vowed that the international community would not abandon Afghanistan as it seeks to take control of its own security, saying “as Afghans stand up, they will not stand alone.”

NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the Afghans were already leading security operations in half the country and were on pace to meet next year's targets. He said that although the International Security Assistance Force operation will terminate by the end of 2014 and the NATO-led combat mission will end, “our commitment is for the long term.”

Rasmussen said that from 2015, there will be an expected “NATO-led presence to train, advise and assist the Afghan security forces and NATO, and ISAF nations will also pay their share to help sustain the army and police Afghanistan needs for the coming years.”

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he came to Chicago with one overriding message: that the “United Nations will continue to support the Afghan government to the maximum of our ability.”

Mr. Ban said he wants to send an unmistakable signal that Afghanistan's international partners will not “withdraw their support as they draw down their military presence.” He also said Afghan security forces must prioritize the protection of civilians — including special measures to protect the human rights of all citizens, particularly women and girls in armed conflict. He added health, education and livelihoods are essential, as well as combating drug production and trafficking.

According to estimates, sustaining Afghan forces beyond 2014 will cost about $4 billion a year. The United States, which has been shouldering the bulk of the financial burden for years, is seeking $1.3 billion in commitments.

U.S. and NATO officials emphasize that the outcome they seek is not to leave behind a perfect Afghanistan, but one that can stand on its own, even if it needs ongoing support from the international community.