NATO sticks to 2014 Afghanistan withdrawal, pledges future support
Published: Monday, May 21, 2012
Updated: Monday, August 27, 2012 16:08
World leaders met today on the second day of the NATO summit to discuss the future of Afghanistan, including the transfer of security responsibilities to Afghan forces and the need for future international support in maintaining stability within the country.
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen asserted that “by the end of 2014, the NATO-led combat mission will end,” signaling that the coalition plans on sticking to the timetable outlined in road map at the Lisbon summit in 2010. Under the agreement, coalition forces will transfer all areas in the country gradually to Afghans over 2013 and remain in a supporting role until 2014, at which time the combat mission will end.
Doug Lute, special assistant to the president on Afghanistan, highlighted the importance of having NATO forces in a supporting role in 2013.
“They are essentially in the lead, but have the ability to call on the support of ISAF troops in their operations,” said Lute, “so there’s an interconnection between those two pieces of the strategy—a transition process that moves them forward, and then a training process that makes sure that they’re prepared to step forward.”
President Obama and Afghanistan’s Karzai signed an agreement that offered U.S. support for the country in exchange for pledges to work on reducing corruption and agreements on human and women’s rights.
“The Strategic Partnership Agreement that President Karzai and I signed in Kabul ensures that as Afghans stand up, they will not stand alone,” Obama said.
It is estimated that the international community will have to contribute about $4.1 billion annually to ensure that security forces remain in control of the country until Afghanistan can provide for itself. In a declaration, NATO stated that “Afghanistan can assume no later than 2024 full financial responsibility for its security forces.”
General John Allen, the commander of NATO coalition forces in Afghanistan, outlined the steps of the security transition. “We’re three tranches into this process of transition, and the final two tranches some of the areas that will be transitioning will be up along the Pakistani border,” he said.
Although the transition from NATO troops to Afghan security forces is already underway, there is concern that security forces will not be able to handle some of the more dangerous provinces where the Taliban is still active.
“We can anticipate that the Taliban are there, recognizing that that’s some of the last areas in which they can operate with freedom in Afghanistan, they’re going to oppose that. And so I anticipate that during that period of time we’re going to see some combat,” General Allen said.
Secretary of State Hilary Clinton met today with Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari, a sign that negotiations may be underway to reopen the supply route through the country after its closure 6 months ago, in retaliation for a U.S. airstrike that killed over two dozen Pakistani troops.
The closure of the supply route poses an issue for NATO, especially as it prepares to move over 100,000 forces and their gear out of the country in two years. Other potential options for exiting the land-locked nation include a much longer northern route through Kyrgyzstan or a massive airlift operation, which would be more expensive and logistically complicated.
President Obama, however, did not meet privately with President Zardari on Sunday, according to the assistant to the president on Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“Transition means the people of Afghanistan increasingly see Afghan police provide their security,” said Secretary-General Rasmussen. “By Afghans, for Afghans.”