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American Forces Press Service

NATO Military Chiefs Discuss Afghanistan, Transformation

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

SIBIU, Romania, Sept. 15, 2012 – NATO chiefs of defense are fleshing out the post-2014 role for alliance forces in Afghanistan while planning how the alliance will reshape itself to face future threats during a meeting of the Military Committee here today.

The plan, agreed to at the Chicago Summit in May, calls for NATO to continue to train and support Afghan national security forces after the NATO combat mission ends in December 2014.

“The new NATO mission will not be ISAF with another name,” said Danish Army Gen. Knud Bartels, the chairman of the committee. “It will be about making sure that the Afghans have the skills to do the job, and not about NATO doing that job for them.” Bartels spoke at a news conference following the meeting.

The committee, which includes Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, heard from Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen, the commander of NATO and U.S. forces in Afghanistan, via video-teleconference.

Allen told the committee there is no denying there has been security progress in the country. He said Afghan forces are getting stronger and more confident and that Afghan forces are “genuinely” in the lead.

Afghan security forces will reach 352,000 members in the next few weeks, Bartels said, and they are making qualitative progress as well. Afghan forces now have the lead for protecting 75 percent of the Afghan population, Bartels said.

There are 27 months until the ISAF mission ends, and Bartels expects hard fighting in the future. NATO and coalition forces will continue to work with and train Afghan forces during that time, he said. Then the new alliance training, advising and assisting mission will begin. The chiefs of defense are planning for the enduring NATO commitment to Afghanistan.

The committee meeting here will inform alliance political leaders of the requirements in Afghanistan post-2014.

“This is a process that will engage all troop-contributing nations, which of course is based on the strategy,” Bartels said. “At this stage there is no capping or ceiling or description for what the contingent will be. But it will be a totally different mission than ISAF, and will be a train and assist mission of supporting the Afghans in supporting their own country.”

Bartels also addressed the problem of the insider threat. The chiefs are “cooperatively and individually looking at all possible steps to minimize the insider threat, even though we will never be able to eliminate it completely,” he said.

“We are moving ahead steadily on this issue,” Bartels said, “and it is definitely our perception that it will not derail the strategy that was … confirmed in Chicago.”

The Romanian host of the meeting, Air Force Lt. Gen. Stefan Danila, said his country will participate in the post-2014 mission in Afghanistan, but he could not name the size of the contingent. Romania currently has around 1,800 troops in Afghanistan.

The NATO chiefs also looked at the way the nations can support alliance transformation and put in place the “smart defense” policy agreed to in Chicago. This is necessary, Bartels said, because the alliance must maintain interoperability and must change with the times.

Transformation does not have a start and end date, he said, and planners will keep pushing “so the alliance can face any threat in the future.”

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