NATO foresees more fighting in Afghanistan

11:20, February 06, 2010      

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NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen predicted on Friday that there will be more fighting in Afghanistan.

"Militants and terrorists will seek to kill International Security Assistance Force (ISAF)'s soldiers and innocent Afghans," Rasmussen told an informal meeting of NATO defense ministers with non-NATO ISAF contributing nations in Istanbul.

At a press conference shortly after the meeting, the NATO chief said the coming days will see a demonstration of the NATO- supported Afghan army's capabilities in a series of operations in Central Helmand.

However, he did not give details about of the military operations because of the security reasons. Yet, he vowed that " terrorism will find no safe haven" in Afghanistan.

He also said that 36 ISAF contributing nations have now made offers to send more troops to Afghanistan.

"Tens of thousands of additional forces are now deploying to Afghanistan," he added.

According to NATO, 43 countries have contributed a total of 85, 795 troops for the ISAF in Afghanistan.

ISAF has been deployed since 2001 under the authority of the UN Security Council which authorized the establishment of the force to assist the Afghan government in the maintenance of security in Kabul and its surrounding areas.

NATO took command of ISAF in August 2003 upon request of the United Nations and the Afghan government.

Rasmussen said "The Afghan security forces are growing in number and capability. The NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan is now up and running."

"And transition to Afghan lead will begin this year," he added.

"There is no doubt 2010 will be a challenging year... This is also the year that we should begin to see Afghanistan's future take shape," he said.

The NATO chief said "NATO and our partners will play our full part in making that future a reality."

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen speaks during a news conference after the Informal Meetings of NATO Defence Minister in Istanbul, Turkey, on Feb. 5, 2010. NATO defense ministers and non- NATO partners gathered here Thursday for an informal meeting to discuss some major issues including the evolving NATO-led operation in Afghanistan, its engagement in Kosovo and defense transformation. The two-day close-door meeting is chaired by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. (Xinhua/Chen Ming)

Speaking about transition in Afghanistan, he stressed it "will be based on conditions, not calendars. Those conditions will be both political and military."

"Of course, all this will be done in close consultation with the Afghan government and international stakeholders," he added.

Defense ministers and senior military officers from 44 countries gathered for the two-day meeting which focuses on the issue of Afghanistan.

Rasmussen said "We are here to discuss our operation in Afghanistan. After a difficult year of 2009 we will see new momentum in 2010. And it is already starting."

Turkish President Abdullah Gul attended the informal meeting here on Friday morning, where NATO defense ministers met with their non-allied ISAF partners to exchange views on the operation in Afghanistan.

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