NATO hopes Afghan forces take lead in 2013

Panetta says final plan will be decided by Nato leaders at a Chicago summit in May.


Afp February 03, 2012

BRUSSELS: Nato allies voiced hope Thursday that Afghan forces can take the lead across the country next year, with foreign troops in a backup role, as they seek to wind down a war that has dragged on for a decade.

At the same time, the alliance insisted that it was not changing plans to complete the security transition by the end of 2014 and that Nato troops would remain engaged in combat until then.

US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta had caused a stir before arriving in Brussels for talks with Nato counterparts when he suggested that Washington wanted to shift from a combat role to a "train and advise and assist role" by the end of 2013.

Panetta, seeking to clear up any confusion, told reporters after the first day of talks that Nato troops "will have to be fully combat-ready" and will fight "as necessary" even as Afghan forces assume the security lead.

"We hope that the Afghan security forces will be ready to take the combat lead in all of Afghanistan some time in 2013," the Pentagon chief said, adding that the final plan will be decided by Nato leaders at a Chicago summit in May.

The French defence minister, Gerard Longuet, was also compelled to clarify his country's position after President Nicolas Sarkozy announced last week that France would end its combat role by the end of 2013.

Longuet said French troops, numbering 3,600 today, would switch from a combat role to a training mission some time in 2013. France will gradually draw down troops and expects to leave around 400-500 military trainers after 2014.

"I was not criticised," Longuet told reporters. "Every country is thinking because each country is confronted with the same problems (in Afghanistan)."

Sarkozy's remarks had sparked concerns that a French withdrawal could encourage a rush to the exit, but a French official said Longuet told his counterparts that France was "committed to the Lisbon plan."

US President Barack Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy both face tough elections this year. War-weary voters could welcome a clear signal that US and French forces are nearer to leaving the unpopular war.

Despite Nato assurances that insurgents are on the back foot, a leaked secret Nato document, based on thousands of detainee interrogations, showed the Taliban believe they can reconquer Afghanistan once Western forces are gone.

COMMENTS (3)

Alsahdiq | 9 years ago | Reply

There is a very philosophical Persian saying which is "A fool does exactly the same what a wise person does. But the fool does it after incurring some heavy losses". Did those among the ruling circles of the USA learn any lesson from Vietnam? No. Will they learn any lesson from their disasterous venture in Afghanistan? No. Why? They are worse than a fool.

Colonel | 9 years ago | Reply

Feels like a bad joke at the moment

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