Dobritoiu: Romania to begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan by mid-2013

Defence heads in 28 NATO member states assembled in Sibiu discussed the Strategic Plan for Afghanistan and agreed to continue to support Afghan forces in the next 27 months so that they become capable of providing the country’s security by the end of 2014.

The Conference of the Military Committee of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation began in Sibiu Saturday morning, bringing together defence chiefs from all 28 NATO member states and approximately 300 other officials. The Conference of the NATO Military Committee was opened by the President of the NATO Military Committee, Gen. Knud Bartels, and by Romanian Defence Minister Corneliu Dobritoiu. The Romanian defence minister stated on the occasion that, ‘as a matter of principle’, Romania would start withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan in the second half of next year, the time-table being still under debate.‘Romania hails the decision of the Chicago Summit that, as of 2014, Afghan forces should take on security responsibilities. Our calendar is under debate with our allies. As a matter of principle, we will start withdrawing from Afghanistan in the second half of 2013, and, after 2014, by full agreement with our allies based on the principle (we got into Afghanistan together, we get out of there together) we will provide a minimal presence to secure conditions for the training and mentorship of Afghan security forces,’ Mediafax quotes Minister Dobritoiu as having said. In what regards the Air Police, the defence minister noted that he hoped a political decision would be ‘shortly’ made in order for Romania not to lose its credibility and be able to cover air police missions for the entire space of the country. According to a NATO press release, the Conference began with a discussion on global security trends and an analysis of the potential security risks. This situational awareness update contributed to a shared understanding of the global security challenges by the NATO Chiefs of Defence (CHODs) and led to a productive exchange of national perspectives. The conclusions of the discussions will be presented to the Council and will provide the military input to the upcoming Defence Ministerial.  Admiral Jim Stavridis, Supreme Allied Commander Europe and in charge of NATO’s operations, together with General John Allen, Commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) shared their views to set the scene for the discussions. CHODs heard that the Afghan forces are getting stronger and more confident, they are genuinely moving into the lead. Within weeks, the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) will reach their full strength of 352,000 and they are taking the lead for providing security for three quarters of the population. The consensus based outcome of this meeting will be instrumental to the eventual decision of Defence Ministers at NATO Headquarters in October 2012. The discussion on the development of a long-term strategy for NATO’s future commitment in the Western Balkans was introduced by the former EU Chief Negotiator on Western Balkans, Ambassador Robert Cooper. CHODs recommitted themselves to the Kosovo forces (KFOR) and the security in the region and reiterated the need for a durable political solution, encouraging all parties involved to continue with discussions under the auspices of the European Union.The Defence Package, agreed at the Chicago Summit, was thoroughly discussed among CHODs with a focus on Smart Defence and the Connected Forces Initiative. Both projects aim to increase interoperability among nations and to stimulate cooperation in the acquisition of military equipment and tools. The conclusion of the discussions provides guidance to General Abrial, Supreme Allied Commander Transformation and his successor General Palomeros for the further development of the Defence Package Implementation Plan, which will be presented to Defence Ministers in October.General Bartels wrapped-up the summit by stating, according to Mediafax: “In the next 27 months we will continue to train and support the Afghan forces so that by the end of 2014 they will be able to ensure the security of their own country. We still have a hard fight, but this will represent a challenge and will bring about inevitable regress. Nevertheless, remarkable progress has been made in the help offered to Afghanistan to develop as a country. The new NATO mission won’t be an ISAF with a different name, it will seek only that Afghans will gain the necessary skills to reach this goal so that there won’t be the need for NATO to ensure security in their place.” This is the first Chiefs of Defence summit in this format after the NATO Summit in Chicago, and the first that takes place in Romania.

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