Warning Ahead of Kabul Conference 'The Price We Have to Pay Is Much Higher than Expected'
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Monday Afghanistan will need long-term support from NATO even after the Afghan army takes full control of security. Speaking before Tuesday's Kabul Conference, he predicted more casualties and said the world underestimated the scale of the mission.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Monday Afghanistan will continue to need NATO's help in the long term.
"Even if our troops switch to a supporting role, Afghanistan will need the constant support of the international community including NATO," Rasmussen wrote in a guest commentary for German newspaper Hamburger Abendblatt published on Monday. He also said he expected heavier fighting and more casualties.
The article was written ahead of Tuesday's Kabul Conference, which will be attended by Rasmussen, United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and delegates from some 60 nations to discuss the country's reconstruction and the handing over of all security to the Afghan government.
Rasmussen called on NATO and its member nations to reach an agreement with the Afghan government on long-term cooperation. "Such a partnership would give Afghanistan even more self-confidence when it regains control over its own fate," the secretary general wrote. He said it was important to send a clear message about long-term ties with the country. The Afghan population should know "that we continue to stand by their side," he said, adding that Afghanistan must not be allowed to become a safe haven for terrorism again.
'Underestimated Size of the Challenge'
"After nine years of international involvement it has become painfully clear that the price we have to pay is much higher than expected -- especially regarding the international and Afghan soldiers killed," Rasmussen said. "It cannot be disputed that the international community underestimated the size of this challenge in the beginning."
He said the military offensives under way in Taliban strongholds would doubtless lead to more intense fighting. "Regrettably there will be more casualties," he said. But he added that these military operations were of enormous political significance. "They contribute to weakening the Taliban politically and militarily." This would encourage many Taliban fighters to leave and seek reconciliation.
The Kabul Conference will work out a "clear path for the transition to Afghan responsibility and participation," Rasmussen said. It would be a milestone towards re-establishing Afghan sovereignty.
Britain's Independent newspaper reported on Sunday that a leaked draft resolution of the Kabul Conference envisages the Afghan army taking full military control of the country by 2014.
cro -- with wire reports