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NATO Plans for Afghan Military Presence Post-2014: Rasmussen

100205e-005 Press conference by the NATO Secretary General - Informal meeting of NATO Defence Ministers - Istanbul, Turkey

Brussels – Speaking to reporters while attending the Munich Security Conference, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen on Saturday said that NATO is still planning for a military presence in Afghanistan post-2014. “We are still planning for a presence after 2014, a resolute support, training mission, and that planning continues, and will continue, assuming that one day we will get a signature on the security arrangements,” Rasmussen said.

The top alliance leader argued that the Afghan security forces, currently numbering around 300,000 men, still need more training to handle the country’s security on their own, making it critical for a new security agreement to be signed to allow international forces to remain after 2014. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has so far refused to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the United States, which NATO has said is a prerequisite to any deal between the alliance and Afghanistan.

U.S. and NATO officials have indicated that they would move ahead with a complete troop withdraw before December if the agreement is not finalized soon. Uncertainty surrounds wether or not the next President set to be elected in April would have a significantly different approach to the issue than Karzai. Last week, Karzai’s National Security Advisor Dr. RangeenDadfarSpanta said that the U.S. must choose between having Afghanistan or Pakistan as a strategic partner before Kabul is willing to sign the BSA.

Dr. Spanta emphasized that the U.S. knows Pakistan is the main “obstacle” to the Afghan government’s peace talks with the Taliban, yet refuses to acknowledge it.

After his comment, the U.S. embassy in Kabul said that they do not have a simple solution for peace in Afghanistan, echoing comments made by U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice at the end of 2013 when she told TOLOnews the U.S. had no “magic wand” that could bring about a peace deal.

Rice was responding to Karzai’s new preconditions for signing the BSA.

Following the Loya Jirga that approved the security pact in November, Karzai rolled out new conditions for the U.S. to meet before he would sign the deal; including getting Taliban peace talks back on track and ending America’s unilateral operations inside Afghanistan.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said this week that the BSA cannot be postponed any further, and Afghanistan risks having no foreign troops or financial aid to support it after December if the deal is not signed soon.

Of the roughly 80,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan, around 47,000 are Americans. (ToloNews)

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