NATO commits to Afghanistan beyond 2014
At the closing of the first day of the conference, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said NATO is making "clear our long term partnership with the Afghan people beyond 2014."
On May 1, President Obama signed a strategic partnership agreement with Afghan President Hamid Karzai that would enable U.S. and NATO forces to remain in Afghanistan beyond 2014 to assist with security and counter-terrorism. But NATO nations indicated hesitation, as many in Europe - and in the United States - are tired of the war that has lasted more than ten years.
NATO's coalition on Afghanistan appeared fragile after newly-elected French President Francois Hollande reaffirmed on Friday that he would withdraw his nation's 3,400 troops by the end of this year, prior to the 2014 deadline.
Rasmussen said the French could assist with noncombat military missions, which would keep all NATO nations involved.
President Obama reinforced Secretary General Rasmussen's statement, saying NATO "will stand together united in our determination to complete this mission." NATO currently has 130,000 troops in Afghanistan.
President Karzai, who attended the NATO Summit and met with President Obama, said the strategic partnership marks "a new page" for Afghanistan and the United States, whose relationship has been tense in recent years.
"The partnership that we signed a few weeks ago in Kabul has turned a new page in our relations. And the new page is a page of two sovereign countries working together for the mutual interests - peace and security and in all other areas of concentration," Karzai said.
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