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NATO's Rasmussen Pledges Afghan Support

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen (file photo)
BRUSSELS -- NATO Secretary- General Anders Fogh Rasmussen says that the alliance will keep on supporting Afghanistan after the withdrawal of most foreign forces next year.

Speaking to journalists after a meeting of NATO defense ministers on October 23, Rasmussen said that NATO and allies will continue supporting Kabul "politically, practically, and financially after 2014." But he said that Afghanistan too must deliver on its promise of reforms.

Rasmussen also said he hopes NATO and Kabul can agree on a status of forces agreement to provide a legal framework for NATO's presence beyond 2014.

"We have still work to do and this includes agreeing on a legal framework with the Afghan government on the status of our forces," he said.

Speaking to journalists before the meeting, British Defense Minister Philip Hammond rejected Afghan President Hamid Karzai's recent criticism of NATO's mission in his country.

Earlier this month, Karzai was quoted as saying NATO's mission had caused "a lot of suffering" without being beneficial to Afghans.

Hammond said NATO's Afghan war effort had been a huge benefit to the country and its people.

Hammond said NATO will try to conclude a status of forces agreement with Afghanistan after Washington concludes its expected Bilateral Security Agreement with Kabul.

An Afghan Loya Jirga, or grand assembly of tribal leaders, is expected to decide the fate of the security pact with Washington next month.

In the meeting, NATO defense ministers discussed the final phase of the security transition with the Afghan defense minister, Bismillah Mohammadi. More than 80,000 NATO troops are deployed in Afghanistan.

With reporting by dpa
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