UAE backs Afghan transition

UAE Foreign Minister Shaikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan underscored at the Nato Summit here on Saturday that the UAE supports the transition of increasing responsibility to the Afghan authorities and the Afghan security institutions.

By (Wam, Reuters)

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Published: Sun 21 Nov 2010, 12:35 AM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 4:05 PM

“This meeting represents a momentous step for Afghanistan in its recent history. Entering this new phase is testimony to the progress made by Afghans throughout the country. The UAE wishes to recognise the spirit of the Afghan population and its leadership who in spite of considerable sacrifices continue to progress towards prosperity,” he added. He noted that the UAE’s operation in Afghanistan has always been about countering zealotry and violent extremism that use a distorted view of religion to further an aggressive political agenda.

“The UAE was among the first Muslim countries to assume a full role in the international coalition in Afghanistan. The UAE is pleased to see an increasing number of Muslim countries being part of the international coalition. This shows recognition of the profound interests at stake for the Muslim world. It also shows an increased willingness on part of Muslim nations to take responsibility to defend these interests. The UAE will continue to work to enhance the constructive engagement of the global Muslim community in Afghanistan,” Shaikh Abdullah said.

Meanwhile, NATO said it aimed to hand full control of security in Afghanistan to Afghan forces by the end of 2014 but promised not to abandon the country in its fight against the Taleban.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai wants the handover completed by that date, with a vastly reduced number of foreign troops staying in a training and support role, but some NATO officials fear a rise in violence could make it hard to meet the target. NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen sought to reassure Karzai over the timetable at the alliance summit in Lisbon attended by the Afghan leader and 48 countries with troops in Afghanistan.

“Today marks the beginning of a new phase in our mission in Afghanistan. We will launch the process by which the Afghan government will take leadership for security throughout the country, district by district,” Rasmussen said.

“If the enemies of Afghanistan have the idea that they can just wait it out until we leave, they have the wrong idea. We will stay as long as it takes to finish our job.”

The conflict is widely seen as going badly for the United States and NATO, and is a tough political problem for US President Barack Obama to solve. Many countries want to withdraw troops gradually as the war becomes increasingly unpopular.

“If the Afghan president reconfirms that between now and 2014 he will be in the condition to keep the territory under control, we have to trust President Karzai,” Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini told reporters.

Obama, who has sent 30,000 more US troops to the war in the past year to try to quell the Taleban-led insurgency, intends to start withdrawing some forces in July 2011. He also supports efforts at reconciliation with the Taleban.

Rasmussen said the new strategy did not mean all 150,000 foreign troops now deployed in Afghanistan would leave the country by the end of 2014.

“Let there be no doubt about our continuing commitment. Afghanistan’s fight against terrorism is of strategic, global importance,” he said. “Which is why we will agree here today a long-term partnership between NATO and Afghanistan to endure beyond the end of our combat mission.”

The US-led intervention in Afghanistan began in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The United States and its allies invaded to overthrow the then-ruling Taleban, who had refused to hand over Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

More than 2,200 foreign troops have been killed there in the past decade and the death rate is on the increase.

The withdrawal strategy hinges on efforts to build up Afghan forces so they can contain the widening insurgency, with a target strength of more than 300,000 by the end of 2011.

That has been hampered by high desertion rates, and the Kabul government is widely regarded as too corrupt, unstable and inept to survive long without foreign military support.

NATO will also seek Russian assistance during the summit when leaders meet President Dmitry Medvedev in Lisbon.

Russia fought a war in Afghanistan from 1979-89 before withdrawing in defeat, and is expected to allow equipment to go through its territory and provide specialised helicopters.

Moscow is expected to sell 18 Mi-17 helicopters to the United States and lend three more to Afghan forces. The Mi-17 is better suited to operating in Afghanistan’s high altitudes and cold weather than equivalent US helicopters.

NATO will also invite Russia to take part in a US-European missile defence system designed to protect against a long-range attack from the Middle East or North Korea.

The NATO summit has also agreed a new strategic concept or mission statement to guide the 28-member alliance for the next decade. It reaffirms a commitment to a nuclear capability as long as such weapons exist, and aims to focus member states on 21st century threats such as cyber attack. —

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