Nato aims to end Afghan combat mission by 2015
Lisbon, November 21, 2010
Nato agreed on Saturday to hand control of security in Afghanistan to Afghan forces by the end of 2014 and said the Nato-led force could halt combat operations by the same date if security conditions were good enough.
Some Nato officials fear a rise in violence could make it hard to meet the target date set by Afghan President Hamid Karzai for the security handover, which would leave a vastly reduced number of foreign troops in a training and support role.
But President Barack Obama lifted hopes the target date would be met by saying for the first time that his aim was to halt major US combat operations by the end of 2014 and significantly reduce the number of US troops there.
"Today marks the beginning of a new phase in our mission in Afghanistan," Nato Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told an alliance summit in Lisbon attended by the Afghan president and 48 countries with troops in Afghanistan.
"I don't foresee ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) troops in a combat role beyond 2014, provided of course that the security situation allows us to move into a more supportive role."
Senior US officials had raised doubts about the target for the end of combat operations, saying Obama would decide when the US combat mission ends only after completed a review of the war. But the president later said he shared the Nato aim.
"My goal is to make sure that by 2014 we have transitioned, Afghans are in the lead, and it is a goal to make sure we are not still engaged in combat operations of the sort we are involved in now," Obama told a news conference.
Karzai said he also believed the handover, starting early next year, could be completed by the end of 2014 "because I found today strong commitment by the international community."
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, however, the handover must be shaped by the security situation and not by timetables. "There are no short cuts to peace," he said. - Reuters