Policy & Strategy

NATO: No change to Afghan withdrawal date

NATO’s secretary general said Monday that the timeline for
withdrawing troops from Afghanistan in 2014 has not been altered after France
said Friday it would withdraw its troops earlier.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said at a press
conference Monday that the goal remains to finish handing off security of the
country to the Afghans by the end of 2014.

{mosads}“Let me stress that we stick to the road map that was
outlined at the NATO Summit in Lisbon in November 2010, according to which we
will gradually hand over lead responsibility to the Afghans, a process that has
been started and hopefully will be completed by the end of 2014,” Rasmussen
said at an appearance with Romanian President Traian Băsescu.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced
Friday
that his country would withdraw its troops by the end of 2013, which
was announced a week after four French soldiers were killed by an Afghan
soldier last week.

Sarkozy also said that he and Afghan President Hamid Karzai
would urge NATO to push up its date to 2013 to hand off control of security to
the Afghans.


Rasmussen said there wasn’t a plan to make that change,
though he added that the transition of control to the Afghans will begin in
mid-2013.

“Afghanistan is moving in the right direction,” he said
Monday. “Transition to Afghan security lead is on schedule and is making steady
progress.”

Rasmussen said that “the pace and scope” of the transition
will depend on the security situation on the ground. “The better the security
the stronger the Afghan Security Forces the more rapidly we can transform the
role of our forces,” he said.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said
Friday that the French decision was made on a national level, and that the rest
of the NATO countries in Afghanistan would work with it.

“We obviously want to continue to work together to ensure
that this is implemented in a way that is consistent with the efforts of all of
NATO to give increasing authority to the Afghans and that it is smooth,” Nuland
said. “But what we are gratified by is that this was not precipitous, that this
was worked through carefully with NATO, with the Afghans, and in consultation
with all of us.”

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