NATO leaders have tasked the North Atlantic Council to begin immediately work on the military planning process for a new post-2014 non-combat mission in Afghanistan, to train, advise and assist the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), including the Afghan Special Operations Forces.
"We will continue to provide strong and long-term political and practical support through our Enduring Partnership with Afghanistan after the NATO-led combat mission winds up by the end of 2014, when the Afghan Authorities will have full security responsibility," the Heads of State and Government of the member countries of the North Atlantic Alliance said in a statement on the first day of the NATO summit in Chicago on Sunday.
"Today we have taken further important steps on the road to a stable and secure Afghanistan and to our goal of preventing Afghanistan from ever again becoming a safe haven for terrorists that threaten Afghanistan, the region, and the world," a Chicago Summit Declaration said.
NATO leaders said "the irreversible transition of full security responsibility from the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) is on track for completion by the end of 2014, as agreed at our Lisbon Summit."
They welcomed Afghan President Hamid Karzai's announcement on the third tranche of provinces that will start transition, which means that 75 percent of Afghanistan's population will live in areas where the ANSF have taken the lead for security. By mid-2013, when the fifth and final tranche of provinces starts transition, "we will have reached an important milestone in our Lisbon roadmap, and the ANSF will be in the lead for security nationwide."
The summit pledged that NATO will play its part alongside other actors in building sufficient and sustainable Afghan forces capable of providing security for their own country. It called on the international community to commit to this long-term sustainment of the ANSF.
The leaders reminded the Afghan government to conduct the forthcoming elections with full respect for Afghan sovereignty and in accordance with the Afghan Constitution, ensuring their transparency, inclusivity and credibility. Continued progress towards these goals will encourage NATO nations to further provide their support up to and beyond 2014.
They also underscored the importance of the full participation of all Afghan women in the reconstruction, political, peace and reconciliation processes in Afghanistan and the need to respect the rights of women, and the protection of children from the damaging effects of armed conflict.
NATO continues to work with Pakistan to reopen the ground lines of communication as soon as possible, the Summit Declaration said.
The NATO leaders are set to gather for an expanded ISAF meeting on Monday.
by RTT Staff Writer
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