NATO: No Rush for Exit From Afghanistan
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has ruled out any exit strategy for the US-led troop presence in Afghanistan before a 2014 timetable.
“There will be no rush for the exits (from Afghanistan),” Rasmussen said on Sunday during a news conference in Chicago, the city hosting a NATO summit, which is discussing the US-led war in Afghanistan, The Associated Press reported.
“Our goal, our strategy, our timetable remain unchanged,” he added.
Rasmussen was addressing the speculations over a decision by newly-elected French President Francois Hollande for early pull-out of French troops. Hollande recently said French combat troops would leave Afghanistan by the end of the year — two years earlier than the timeline set for official withdrawal of US-led forces from Afghanistan.
Also on Saturday, Rasmussen said NATO troops would stay in Afghanistan beyond 2014, despite international calls for withdrawal of foreign troops from the war-torn country.
“The international presence in Afghanistan beyond the NATO-led training mission I would refer to the strategic partnership agreement that was recently approved between the United States and Afghanistan. It also includes some security provisions,” the Western military alliance’s chief told a NATO policy forum in Chicago.
The Strategic Partnership Agreement signed in early May by US President Barack Obama and his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai allowed the US troops to stay in the Asian country beyond 2014.
NATO’s new decision signals a big shift in the alliance’s policy compared to two years ago when NATO leaders agreed to withdraw foreign troops from Afghanistan by 2014.
The US-led invasion of Afghanistan was launched in 2001. The offensives removed the Taliban from power, but insecurity continues to rise across the country, despite the presence there of tens of thousands of US-led troops.
Speaking to Fox News Sunday earlier in the month, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers said the Taliban militants had grown stronger in Afghanistan since the US increased the number of its troops in the violence-scarred country by 33,000 in 2010.
“I think we both say that what we found is the Taliban is stronger,” Feinstein said.
Obama is hosting NATO’s 25th summit with 28 heads of state and government of NATO’s member nations in Chicago to discuss several issues, especially the war in Afghanistan.