NATO nations formally agreed on Saturday to start turning over Afghanistan's security to its military next year and give local forces full control by 2014. The U.S. and its allies appeared to disagree on when NATO combat operations would end.
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said he did not expect NATO troops to stay in the fight against the Taliban after 2014.
“I don't foresee ISAF troops in a combat role beyond 2014, provided of course that the security situation allows us to move into a more supportive role,” Mr. Fogh Rasmussen told reporters, using the acronym for the International Security Assistance Force that is led by NATO.
Later, a senior Obama administration official said the U.S. had not committed to ending its combat mission in Afghanistan at the end of 2014. he said a decision on changing the U.S. mission in Afghanistan was not imminent because it was still unclear what the security needs and resources would be as the 2014 transition proceeds. Each NATO member country will make an individual decision on when their combat mission will change, he said.
The U.S. view may reflect a reluctance to forecast when combat will end, in order not to give the Taliban a sense of hope for outlasting their adversary.
It may also indicate less certainty by the U.S. that Afghans will be able to take full control by 2014, and perhaps a greater eagerness among the Europeans to be done with a nine—year combat operation. — AP