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NATO Defense Chiefs Discuss Post-2014 Afghan Mission, Georgia

An honor guard carries the coffins of Georgian soldiers killed in Afghanistan at the airport in Tbilisi on May 16.
NATO defense ministers have finished the second of two days of meetings in Brussels to discuss the alliance's operations in Afghanistan after its combat mission ends there in 2014.

NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the ministers on June 5 endorsed a "detailed concept" for the alliance's mission beginning in 2015, which will focus on training and assisting Afghan government forces.

Rasmussen said focus will also shift to reaching a status-of-forces agreement (SOFA) that would authorize a U.S. and NATO troop presence beyond 2014.

"A bilateral agreement between the U.S. and Afghanistan will be followed between an agreement between the Afghan government and NATO on a status-of-forces agreement that will provide the legal framework for our presence in Afghanistan," Rasmussen said.

"Let me just add to that, that I feel confident that we will reach an agreement because the Afghan government is well aware of the fact that without such a security agreement we can't deploy troops and trainers to Afghanistan."

Rasmussen said NATO military experts would now start working out the details of the alliance’s new Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan.

Georgia's NATO 'Future'

The talks started with a meeting between the NATO ministers and their counterpart from Georgia, which contributes some 1,560 troops to the 100,000-strong NATO mission in Afghanistan.

NATO has promised that Georgia could join the alliance someday, when all the conditions for membership are met.

Rasmussen said that a "stable and democratic Georgia" had a future within NATO, on condition that it undertakes the necessary reforms.

He said the alliance expected the Georgian government to respect the rule of law and human rights, and hold free and fair presidential elections later this year.

"We have made clear that even a perception -- even a perception -- of politically motivated arrests should be avoided and we expect Georgia to live up to those fundamental principles," Rasmussen said.

With reporting by AP, dpa, Interfax, and Reuters
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