NATO to stay in Afghanistan even after security transition
NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said at the Kabul Conference Tuesday that international forces would remain to support Afghan forces even after the latter take over security responsibility for the country, DPA reported.
Earlier on Tuesday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai told the one-day international conference on Afghanistan that his country's forces were committed to "be responsible for all military and law enforcement operations throughout our country by 2014."
Speaking at the same conference, Rasmussen said that the transition would be gradual and "on the basis of a sober assessment of the political and security situation, so that it is irreversible."
"And when it happens, international forces won't leave; they will simply move into a supporting role," he said, adding, "We have not come this far, at this cost, to falter just as we see our common goal take shape."
There are around 140,000 US and NATO troops stationed in Afghanistan, but that number is expected to grow to 150,000 by August, when major operations in the southern region are planned.
"We will never allow the Taliban to overthrow the elected government by force. We will never allow al-Qaeda a safe haven in this country again," Rasmussen said, adding, "And we will stand by the Afghan people for the long term, even after our combat mission ends."
"These are principles on which we will not compromise or waver. I hope the Afghan people, and their enemies, hear that message loud and clear," the NATO chief added.
Some 70 international representatives, including nearly 40 foreign ministers - among them US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton - are attending the conference.