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NATO Agrees Afghan Handover Plan


Afghan police and British NATO soldiers during a briefing at their military base in Lashkar Gah, Helmand Province, in February
NATO ministers have agreed conditions to start handing over security responsibility in Afghanistan to Afghans, despite security setbacks and a shortage of personnel to train local forces.

"We should have no illusions. Making progress will not be easy, and it will not be quick. But based on what we see on the ground now, it is happening," NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told a news conference after a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in the Estonian capital, Tallinn. "Our forces, Afghan and international, are holding territory. The Afghan government is finding its feet, including in the toughest parts of the country, like Marjah. And I expect that we will start handing over responsibility to the Afghans this year."

Rasmussen, however, said that there was no rush to withdraw from Afghanistan and that transition would be a gradual process based on conditions, not a timetable.

NATO and the United States plan to withdraw their troops from Afghanistan by summer 2011.

Rasmussen said on April 22 that an additional 450 foreign trainers were needed for Afghanistan's security forces.

The same day, discussions in Tallinn focused on the alliance's nuclear policy in the wake of a recent U.S.-Russia strategic nuclear arms reduction deal, and missile defense.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ruled out an early removal of the last remaining U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe.

Ministers in Tallinn also granted Bosnia a membership action plan (MAP) that could see the country eventually join the alliance, but attached conditions to its implementation.

compiled from agency reports