The death of Osama bin Laden does not justify an early retreat by NATO forces from Afghanistan, the head of the Western military alliance said on Wednesday, dpa reported.
The NATO mission was launched in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks against the United States, which were masterminded by bin Laden's terrorist organization, al-Qaeda.
But NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the killing of bin Laden by a US special troops' raid in Pakistan "should not affect" the alliance's operations.
"International terrorism continues to pose a direct threat for the security of our countries and for global stability so we need to stay in Afghanistan for as long as is necessary to fulfil our mission," he told a news conference in Brussels.
Rasmussen brushed aside concerns that bin Laden's killing on Monday was a breach of international law.
"The bottom line here is that the founder of al-Qaeda has been responsible for the death of thousands of innocent people and I think it has been justified to carry out this operation against him," he said.
The revelation that bin Laden was found to be living in a Pakistani town close to an army training ground has reinforced scepticism over Pakistan's commitment to the fight against international terrorism.
But NATO's chief said that "recent events do not change" the alliance's policy of "positive engagement" with the country.
"I understand well the questions posed after the events ... but my conclusion is very clear: we need to improve and reinforce relations with Pakistan," Rasmussen concluded.