By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 26, 2012 – NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen is confident Afghan security forces will be able to take full responsibility for Afghanistan’s security by the end of 2014, he said today during an interview with the Pentagon Channel.
His confidence comes from discussions with senior Afghan and International Security Force officials during a recent visit to Afghanistan, the secretary general said. He added that he saw Afghan special operations forces in action during that trip and was "impressed."
Speaking from NATO headquarters in Brussels, Rasmussen said an encouraging development is that Afghans are taking more responsibility for their own training and operational activities.
"Right now, around 90 percent of all training activities are conducted by the Afghan security forces themselves," he said. "Furthermore, we have seen the Afghan security forces take the lead in around 80 percent of all our security operations. These developments are testaments to the increasing security capability of the Afghan security forces."
The secretary general noted that while NATO is on track to meet the 2014 troop withdrawal deadline, troop reductions and redeployments should not be seen as a rush for the exit. "It's actually part of the plan," he said. "As the Afghans take more responsibility, and we hand over that responsibility to them, our troops can take a step backwards and move into a more supportive role. … All 50 nations within the ISAF coalition have committed themselves to stay until the end of 2014."
Rasmussen said the NATO Response Force, which is intended as a rapid response force and as a framework for NATO training and exercises, will gain importance as operations in Afghanistan draw down.
"Furthermore, the United States has decided to rotate a brigade unit to Europe to participate in NATO Response Force activities," the secretary general said. "That would be an excellent opportunity for American service men and women to work together with partners and allies in Europe so that we maintain that ability to operate and work together."
Rasmussen also touched on the security situation in Turkey, which he said officially requested Patriot missile support from NATO last week. "This week, a military expert team is visiting Turkey to look closer into possible sites for the deployment of these Patriot missiles," he said.
The NATO countries that would supply the missiles -- the United States, Germany and the Netherlands -- are holding internal discussions, and a decision by the NATO Council would follow, he said. "I would expect that decision to be taken in days," the secretary general added.