Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
What next on Iran’s nuclear deal: follow the news here

Nato set on pullout from Afghanistan

The head of Nato said yesterday the alliance would start turning security over to Afghan forces next year under a plan the group's officials say will allow for substantial troop withdrawals by the end of 2014.

LISBON // The head of Nato said yesterday the alliance would start turning security over to Afghan forces next year under a plan the group's officials say will allow for substantial troop withdrawals by the end of 2014.

Some Nato and Pentagon officials have expressed doubt that the deadline can be achieved because of the rising threat posed by Taliban insurgents to Afghanistan's weak government.

But the Nato secretary general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said before the start of a two-day summit in Lisbon that the 28-nation alliance was committed to the target date, and would leave a smaller staff to train the Afghan forces.

The US president, Barack Obama, who will have talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai during the summit today, backed the decision to start the security handover in 2011 and called for moves towards a reconciliation with the Taliban.

"We will announce that the transition to lead Afghan responsibility [for security] is about to start in 2011," Mr Rasmussen said after talks with Portugal's president.

"We hope this process will be completed by the end of 2014 so that the Afghan security forces can take responsibility all over Afghanistan."

WAM reported yesterday that Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs, led a delegation from the Emirates to the summit, which brought together leaders of the 28 member nations and their 19 partners in the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan with EU leaders plus the United Nations, World Bank, Japan and Russia.

Nato leaders will formally announce the exit strategy during the summit, hoping to draw a line under a war seen as going badly for the United States and its allies. They will also approve a new 10-year vision for Nato, underscoring the need to be ready for similar missions in the future, and are expected to extend a missile defence system. They also hope talks with the Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev, today will improve ties with Moscow.

Ahead of the summit, US military officials said they were sending a contingent of heavily armoured battle tanks to Afghanistan for the first time in the nine-year war, a shift that signals a further escalation in the aggressive tactics that have been employed by American forces this fall to attack the Taliban.

The deployment of a company of M1 Abrams tanks, which will be fielded by marines in the country's south-west, will allow ground forces to target insurgents from a greater distance - and with more of a lethal punch - than is possible from any other US military vehicle.

"The tanks bring awe, shock and firepower," an unnamed officer told The Washington Post. "It's pretty significant."

The US-led intervention in Afghanistan began in response to the September 11 attacks. The United States and its allies invaded to overthrow the then-ruling Taliban, who had refused to hand over al Qa'eda leader Osama bin Laden.

Now in its 10th year, the war has become a headache for Mr Obama, who talks openly of reconciliation with the Taliban.

"America and our Nato allies strongly support a ... process that seeks reintegration into society of those Taliban who agree on some main points: they have to abandon violence, break their ties with al Qa'eda and agree to live under the rules of the Afghan Constitution," Mr Obama told Spain's El Pais newspaper.

* Reuters

Back to the top

More articles

Editor's Picks

 Iranian President Hassan Rouhani greets supporters after his arrival in Zahedan, the regional capital of Sistan and Baluchestan province on Tuesday, April 15, 2014. During Mr Rouhani's two-day visit, he will tour several other cities and hold meetings with local scholars and entrepreneurs. Maryam Rahmanian for The National

On the road with Hassan Rouhani

Iran's president is touring some of Iran's most underdeveloped provinces. Foreign correspondent Yeganeh Salehi is traveling with him.

 The Doha-based Youssef Al Qaradawi speaks to the crowd as he leads Friday prayers in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt in February, 2011. The outspoken pro-Muslim Brotherhood imam has been critical of the UAE’s policies toward Islamist groups, adding to friction between Qatar and other GCC states. Khalil Hamra / AP Photo

Brotherhood imam skips Doha sermon, but more needed for GCC to reconcile

That Youssef Al Qaradawi did not speak raises hopes that the spat involving Qatar and the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain might be slowly moving towards a resolution.

 Twitter photo of  Abdel Fattah El Sisi on the campaign trail on March 30. Photo courtesy-Twitter/@SisiCampaign

El Sisi rides a bicycle, kicks off social media storm

The photos and video created a huge buzz across social media networks, possibly a marker of a new era for Egypt.

 An Afghan election commission worker carries a ballot box at a vote counting centre in Jalalabad on April 6. A roadside bomb hit a truck carrying full ballot boxes in northern Afghanistan, killing three people a day after the country voted for a successor to President Hamid Karzai. Eight boxes of votes were destroyed in the blast, which came as the three leading candidates voiced concerns about possible fraud. Noorullah Shirzada / AFP Photo

Two pressing questions for Afghanistan’s future president

Once in office, the next Afghan president must move fast to address important questions that will decide the immediate future of the country.

 Friday is UN Mine Awareness Day and Omer Hassan, who does demining work in Iraqi Kurdistan, is doing all he can to teach people about the dangers posed by landmines. Louise Redvers for The National

A landmine nearly ended Omer’s life but he now works to end the threat of mines in Iraq

Omer Hassan does demining work in Iraqi Kurdistan and only has to show people his mangled leg to underscore the danger of mines. With the world marking UN Mine Awareness Day on Friday, his work is as important as ever as Iraq is one of the most mine-affected countries in the world.

 Supporters of Turkey's ruling AKP cheer as they follow the election's results in front of the party's headquarters in Ankara on March 30. Adem Altan/ AFP Photo

Erdogan critic fears retaliation if he returns to Turkey

Emre Uslu is a staunch critic of Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Now, with a mass crackdown on opposition expected, he is unsure when he can return home.


To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National