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Thursday, 6 November 2014

NATO chief Stoltenberg makes first trip to Afghanistan....

In an unannounced visit, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg is in Afghanistan to meet with government and military leaders. The trip comes as the military alliance prepares to wind down its combat mission against the Taliban.
NATO Generalsekretär Stoltenberg in Afghanistan 6. Nov. 2014
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg arrived Thursday in Afghanistan for an unannounced visit, his first to the country since taking office. He will meet the country's new president Ashraf Ghani, Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah, and top NATO commanders.
"Afghanistan is a top priority for NATO," Stoltenberg said, who visits the country as the military alliance prepares to end its 13-year combat mission against Taliban insurgents at the end of the year. The combat mission will be replaced by a training and support mission called "Resolute Support."
At its peak in 2010, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) numbered 130,000 troops, but that figure has fallen to below 34,000.
Afghanistan and the United States signed a security deal that provides for nearly 10,000 US troops to remain in the country into 2015 to train the Afghan army and police and prevent a Taliban resurgence. Roughly 12,500 troops in total will comprise the NATO presence in Afghanistan after 2014.
"For over a year, Afghan soldiers and police have led security operations across the country, and at the end of the year you will take full charge of security," Stoltenberg said, addressing Afghan troops at the Afghan National Army Special Operations Command at Camp Morehead in Kabul. "But you will not stand alone. NATO and our partners will continue to support you," he added.
Afghanistan currently has a total of 350,000 security forces, but doubts have emerged about their effectiveness as sectarian violence continues to plague the country. A recent Taliban ambush killed at least 14 security forces in northern Afghanistan, and Taliban leaders have vowed to keep fighting until all foreign troops are withdrawn.
Security forces in Afghanistan have been suffering unprecedented casualties, with nearly 1000 soldiers killed from March through September of 2014, and 2,200 police officers killed in the first 5 months of 2014 alone.