Thursday, January 28, 2010

NATO chief sees Afghan mission boost at key meet

LONDON — NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen urged leaders at a conference on Afghanistan Thursday to match the "sacrifice" of foreign soldiers in the war-torn country with clear plans for its future.

Writing in British newspaper the Times, Rasmussen said the time for reflection on the unstable country's future had passed and called on powers to chart the way ahead at the London meeting.

"The effort and sacrifice of our soldiers alone will not be enough to turn the corner in Afghanistan," he said.

"It will have to be matched by a clear political 'road map'. The London conference will help to set that out."

And he said this year was about putting plans into action to help Afghanistan stand on its own feet.

"2010 is about implementation: with clear Afghan plans to improve governance, a more focused civilian effort, and a substantially stronger military mission," wrote the head of the military alliance.

"There is new momentum in this mission and it is gathering pace. The London conference will give it another boost."

About 70 countries and organisations that give vital support to Afghanistan will attend the Thursday's meeting. They will be addressed by President Hamid Karzai who will seek to drum up support for a range of plans.

Rasmussen praised Karzai's projects as "realistic and achievable."

"I believe that at the London conference those plans will get the support they need, including the financial means," he said.

"Then it will be up to the Afghan Government."

The NATO chief further said he would be "pressuring the allies and our partners to contribute much more to the NATO training mission in Afghanistan."

The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), with contributions from 43 different countries, is part of a force of around 110,000 international soldiers fighting a fierce Taliban insurgency.

The United States has pledged a further 30,000 more troops this year.

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