NATO Endorses Plan to Exit Afghanistan, US Holds Back
Saturday, November 20th, 2010 VOA News NATO leaders on Saturday endorsed a plan to start transferring leadership of the war in Afghanistan to Kabul, and completely hand over military control to Afghan forces by 2014.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai welcomed the decision of what he called the “effective, irreversible and sustainable” transition.
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said he does not foresee foreign troops in a combat role
But a senior U.S. official cautioned that President Barack Obama had not formally committed to ending the U.S. combat mission in Afghanistan on that date.
Rasmussen said he is “confident” the parties could meet the 2014 deadline, but said the move would depend on the security situation in Afghanistan.
Standing next to the NATO chief and Afghan leader on the second day of the 2-day NATO summit in Lisbon, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon cautioned that the drawdown has to be guided by “realities not schedules.”
NATO leaders were also meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Saturday in a gathering that Rasmussen described as a “turning point” in relations between Moscow and the Western military alliance.
The NATO-Russia Council is expected to invite Russia to take part in a U.S.-European missile defense shield.
Rasmussen said they had already reached a deal to expand the transit of equipment through Russia to support NATO troops in Afghanistan.
Earlier on Saturday, the NATO chief pledged that the military alliance would not abandon Afghanistan to its “enemies.”
He said NATO would stay “as long as it takes to finish our job,” adding that Afghanistan’s fight against terrorism is of “strategic, global importance.”
On Friday – the opening day of the summit – the NATO leaders reached agreement on establishing a missile defense system that will cover all member countries, including the United States.
NATO on Friday also agreed to a new, 10-year mission statement for the military alliance, that lays out how the organization plans to meet the security challenges of the 21st century.
NATO members also backed the approval of a START missile pact. Mr. Obama has called on the U.S. Senate to ratify the treaty between Moscow and Washington, aimed at cutting deployed nuclear weapons by about 30 percent.
Some information in this story was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.