Leaders from NATO's 28 nations and the 22 partners in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) coalition on Monday gave Afghanistan a clear, long-term commitment to continue supporting the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) after the ISAF mission is completed in 2014.
Agreeing a NATO Strategic Plan for Afghanistan, the Heads of State decided on a new NATO-led mission which will focus on training, advising and assisting Afghan forces after they have assumed full security responsibility across the country by the end of 2014. The decision was taken on the request of the Afghan government.
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen made it clear that "this will not be ISAF under a different name. It will be a new mission, with a new role for NATO" he said on the conclusion of the two-day NATO summit in Chicago.
The 50 nations that make up the ISAF coalition were joined by Afghan President Hamid Karzai, leaders from Russia, Japan, Pakistan, Central Asian states and key international community partners from the U.N. and the EU. The presence of these 60 leaders and senior officials demonstrated the strength and depth of international support for the stability of Afghanistan for the years to come.
Allies and partners reinforced this decision with a commitment to support the long-term financial sustainability of the ANSF as part of a broader international effort.
The responsibility to contribute to the financing of this effort is one for the international community as a whole, and NATO urged the international community to play its part. "This is an investment in our own security, to maintain the hard fought gains we have achieved together," Rasmussen said.
Afghan Forces will reach their full surge strength of 352,000 ahead of the scheduled deadline in October. The decision to gradually reduce these forces to a sustainable level will be taken once the transition process is complete after 2014.
The preliminary model for a future total ANSF size, defined by the international community and the Afghan government, envisages a force of 228,500 with an estimated annual budget of $4.1 billion, and will be reviewed regularly against the developing security environment.
The meeting also agreed on the next stage of NATO-ISAF engagement in Afghanistan. Significant progress has been made since the Lisbon summit in 2010. Insurgency is under pressure as never before and the ANSF are growing in strength and confidence. They are taking an increasing lead for security and by the middle of 2013 will be providing the lead for security across the country, allowing ISAF forces to shift from leading combat operations to a more supporting role. There was broad agreement that the Afghan security forces are well on track to take full security responsibility across the country by the end of 2014.
As the Afghan Forces take on more responsibility, ISAF troops can be drawn down gradually and responsibly.
As the Afghan economy and the revenues of the Afghan government grow, Afghanistan's yearly share will increase progressively from at least $500 million in 2015, with the aim that it can assume, no later than 2024, full financial responsibility for its own security forces.
The NATO Secretary-General recognized the steps taken by Russia, the Kyrgyz Republic, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan to facilitate the transit of ISAF cargo. He also stressed that "we count on Pakistan's commitment to support the efforts of the international community to promote peace and stability in Afghanistan".
The Afghan government is also playing its part. In a joint declaration with NATO and ISAF, the Afghan government confirmed its commitment to a stable, democratic, society, based on the rule of law, and good governance. This includes the need to fight corruption and to protect human rights for all Afghans, including women.
"A peaceful, stable and prosperous Afghanistan will benefit the whole region and beyond," the Secretary-General concluded. He expressed confidence that despite the many challenges remaining, "we are determined to succeed, and based on today's discussions, I am confident we will."
by RTT Staff Writer
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