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NATO: Members Ready For 'Concrete' Financing Of Afghan Forces

  • RFE/RL

Afghan troops pass by Italian soldiers from the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) during the transfer of authority to Afghan security forces in Herat last July.

Afghan troops pass by Italian soldiers from the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) during the transfer of authority to Afghan security forces in Herat last July.

BRUSSELS -- NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has said a number of alliance countries have announced "concrete financial contributions" to help sustain Afghan forces after the international forces' planned withdrawal.

Rasmussen, who spoke in Brussels on April 18 at the end of the first day of a NATO ministers' meeting, did not specify which countries or the amounts pledged.

Rasmussen said there was an "emerging agreement" among the alliance's members on what role they would play in Afghanistan once that country's forces take charge of security.

The majority of the 130,000-strong NATO-led force is scheduled to leave Afghanistan by 2014.

Speaking in Brussels, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the handover was proceeding according to the schedule.

"The transition is on track. The Afghans are increasingly standing up for their own security and future and NATO remains united in our support for the Lisbon timetable and an enduring commitment to Afghanistan," Clinton said.

Clinton also reiterated that the international community remained dedicated to protecting the "gains of the last decade" in Afghanistan and "to prevent there ever being a return of Al-Qaeda or other extremists operating out of the Afghan territory."

The future size and funding needed to sustain Afghan security forces after 2014, which the United States estimates at $4.1 billion a year, is one of the top issues of the agenda of the meeting in Brussels.

Rasmussen however said no final decision on the size of the funding would be made at the two-day talks and that discussions would continue at the NATO summit in Chicago on May 20-21.

On April 17, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said he wanted the United States to officially promise that it would provide "at least $2 billion" a year after the international forces withdraw.

British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond meanwhile announced London’s contribution of "70 million pounds a year -- that is about $110 million -- as a contribution towards the ISAF element, which is about 1.3 billion dollars a year [from 2014 onwards]."

Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman Mohammad Zahir Azimi said on April 18 that the Afghan army has already reached its target number of 195,000 troops.

On April 19, the NATO ministers are due to discuss the alliance's missile defense system in Europe. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is scheduled to attend the meeting. Moscow firmly opposes the system.

With reporting by Reuters and AFP

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