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NATO to stay in Afghanistan "as long as it takes", says spokesman

IRNA - Islamic Republic News Agency

London, April 16, IRNA -- A NATO spokesman said on Friday that NATO is in short of trainers in Afghanistan to transit power to local officials and will stay there “as long as it takes to be successful”.

In a press briefing in London, James Appathurai said the present mission of NATO in Afghanistan is to “create conditions” in order to hand over the control of affairs to the Afghan government.

His comments come days after Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accused NATO of supporting some terrorists in the region--a fact Appathurai denied.

“The transition includes handing over to Afghan people district by district and province by province...but the problem is we are short of 40,000 new trainers. It is hard to get trainers because NATO does not see training as a military goal,” he said, adding that the next military target of NATO forces will be Kandahar.

He added that NATO foreign ministers will hold a meeting next Thursday in Estonia to discuss the details of the Kandahar operation informally ahead of a similar meeting in Afghanistan on the issue.

“Conditions have been established and agreed by NATO and the Afghan government and we believe we are going in the right direction which would be slow and difficult,” he said.

Appathurai admitted that the level of civilian casualties in Afghanistan is “too high”, saying NATO will make efforts to minimise the casualties.

“Our aim is to change the political culture in Afghanistan. The operation in Kandahar as the heartland of the Taleban also aims to suck in oxygen away from the Taleban,” he said.

Appathurai further said NATO foreign ministers will also discuss the organisation’s new “strategic concept” which “lays out the path to future” and is drafted every 10 years.

He said NATO should take on missile defence missions for its members and include Russia in the new plan.

He added that next week’s NATO meeting will also focus on NATO’s nuclear policy and Bosina’s membership.

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End News / IRNA / News Code 1058544



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