- April 19th, 2012
- Posted by EUEditor
Ministers from the NATO powers in Brussels this week (18-19.4.12) moved ahead with plans for disengagement from Afghanistan by the end of 2014 – including the question of carry-on resources for the Afghan forces.
The alliance billed the gathering of Foreign Ministers and Defence Ministers as a preparatory session for this yearâ€™s NATO summit in Chicago, 20-21.5.12, which would discuss the program of withdrawals, and funding for the expanded Afghanistan forces after the commitment of major alliance forces comes to an end.
NATOâ€™s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) was set up as the command structure for outside military intervention that began in 2002.Â All 28 NATO member countries have taken part, along with 20 others, including Australia, which has built up to a 1500-strong commitment.
This week (18.4.12) the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, said the main forces would be brought back by the end of 2013, a year earlier than originally planned, stating that preparation of the Afghan army for the hand-over had been progressing well.
The Defence Minister, Stephen Smith, affirmed that some specialist elements would remain in the country, for training of Afghan troops, and possibly for counter-terrorism operations.
Mr Smith was in Brussels for the consultations this week, together with the Australian Foreign Minister, Bob Carr.
The Defence Minister joined in deploring a fresh incident involving American troops, generating ill-will with the civilian community in Afghanistan: the publication in the United States of photographs of US and Afghan soldiers, showing off human remains, of suicide bombers.
It is the latest in a chain of episodes, from the demonstrated indiscipline at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, to bombing attacks involving civilian casualties in Afghanistan, and more recently the inadvertent insult of the burning of copies of the Koran, at a military base.
The NATO Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, told journalists the organisation strongly condemned the pictures, and the acts of the troops.
â€œThey in no way represent the principles and values of our mission i n Afghanistanâ€, he said.
ABC â€“ Radio Australia, â€œEarly Australian exit is part of the plan: NATOâ€, ABC, Sydney, 19.4.12. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-04-18/australian-afghan-pullout-part-of-war-plans-nato-says/3958774, (19.4.12).
Nine-MSN,Â Sydney, â€œAfghan neighbours should do more: Smithâ€, 19.4.12. http://news.ninemsn.com.au/article.aspx?id=8453853, (19.4.12).
North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), Brussels, â€œNATO defence and foreign ministers prepare Chicago summitâ€, 18.4.12. http://www.nato.int/cps/en/SID-781B0078-5C83F3AC/natolive/news_86070.htm, (19.4.12).