NATO head: Troops showed restraint in Afghanistan

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen speaks to the media during a news conference at a seminar on SACT February 28, 2012 in Washington, DC. Alex Wong

WASHINGTON - NATO's top civilian official on Tuesday praised U.S. and allied troops in Afghanistan for showing "remarkable restraint" in the face of anti-coalition violence following the burning of Muslim holy books at a NATO base.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen of Denmark told a NATO seminar at a Washington hotel that Gen. John Allen, the top allied commander in Afghanistan, was right to withdraw all allied advisers from Afghan government ministries after two U.S. officers were killed in their offices on Saturday.

Troops from the U.S.-led international military coalition "are showing remarkable restraint and professionalism under very difficult circumstances," Fogh Rasmussen said.

"Despite the challenges of this incident and the challenges we face, we must not lose sight of our goal: a stable Afghanistan," he said.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Tuesday defended the U.S. mission before the Senate. She said the United States went into Afghanistan with a clear purpose after the Sept. 11 attacks and that Obama has set the country on a path to leave.

"This is not an endless commitment that will take lives far into the future," Clinton told the Appropriations subcommittee on foreign operations. "But we have both made progress on the principle reason we were there - security."

The NATO chief echoed the Obama administration's stay-the-course theme on Afghanistan, insisting that the breakdown in trust between the allies and the Afghans, as evidenced by Saturday's shooting in the Interior Ministry, would be overcome.

"We will not allow the extremists to weaken our resolve," he said. "We will continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our Afghan partners, and we will not lose sight of our shared goal. We are in Afghanistan to build stability and security for the Afghan people, which is in the interest of our own security."

He said Saturday's shooting, following a series of incidents in which other allied troops have been shot by their supposed Afghan partners, "does not represent the daily picture" of cooperation on security and other issues.

The withdrawal of advisers is temporary and "will not in any way affect the timeline" for giving the Afghan government full responsibility for security across the country by the end of 2014, he said.

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