NATO allies thrash out Afghan troop pull out
BRUSSELS - Agence France-Presse
Turkish Defense Minister İsmet Yilmaz (R) talks with his US counterpart Leon Panetta before the NATO defense ministers and foreign ministers meeting in Brussels.The United States and its 27 NATO allies closed ranks yesterday to ensure an orderly troop withdrawal from Afghanistan over the next two years as Australia became the latest nation to declare its pullout. The talks aimed at preparing a NATO summit in Chicago on May 20-21.
Foreign and defense ministers met in Brussels for rare talks to discuss Afghan strategy and the size and funding of Afghan security forces once foreign combat troops have left. The goal is to enable most of the 130,000 foreign troops to leave by the end of 2014. But Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said April 17 that she would bring home 1,550 troops a year earlier than planned, with most soldiers withdrawn in 2013.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen insisted that Australia’s announcement was “fully within the framework” of the transition agreed by nations contributing to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
“All 50 allies and partners within the ISAF coalition have committed themselves to the basic principle of, ‘in together, out together.’ And I know that the Australians are committed to that principle as well,” Rasmussen said. With the war increasingly unpopular in the United States too, President Barack Obama, facing his own tough election in November, plans to withdraw 23,000 of the 90,000 US troops in Afghanistan this year. As allies chart their withdrawals, the coalition is debating the price tag to sustain Afghan security forces after 2014, estimated at $4.1 billion a year.