NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Monday the military alliance was sticking to the transition plan in Afghanistan mapped out in 2010, despite French proposals to speed up NATO's handover of security to Afghan forces, Xinhua reported.
"We stick to the roadmap that was outlined at the NATO summit in Libson in November 2010. According to which, we will gradually handover lead responsibility to the Afghans. A process that has been started and hopefully will be completed by the end of 2014," Rasmussen told reporters at NATO headquarters.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Friday French troops would withdraw from Afghanistan at the end of 2013 and Paris would urge NATO allies to speed up its timetable for handing all combat operations to Afghan forces in 2013, a year earlier than the alliance plans. France will present its proposal at the upcoming meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels on Feb. 2-3.
Rasmussen declined to comment on Sarkozy's decision, but said the role of NATO forces would gradually change from the middle of 2013.
"The fact is that by mid-2013 we will start the final transition of provinces and districts to lead Afghan responsibility. So from that time on, the whole Afghanistan will have Afghan security forces in the lead of security. From that time on, We can gradually change the role of our forces from combat to support," he said.
"The pace and the scope of that transformation of our forces will of course very much depend on the security situation on the ground ... All that will take place within the roadmap we outlined in Lisbon in 2010," he stressed.