NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen on Thursday insisted that the military alliance would be carrying out combat operations in Afghanistan until 2014, following a day of speculation about its withdrawal plans, DPA reported.
Leaders from NATO countries had previously agreed on 2014 as the year they would withdraw their combat troops from the country, but statements by US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta appeared to suggest that combat operations could already end in 2013.
"Let me stress that there is no change of timetable. We stick to the roadmap that was outlined at the NATO summit in Lisbon in 2010," Rasmussen told reporters after discussing the issue with the defence ministers of the alliance's 28 countries in Brussels.
"If we are to hand over full responsibility to the Afghans by the end of 2014, then we have to hand over the last provinces to the Afghans some time before," he added. "But let me stress: we will conduct combat operations throughout the transition period."