NATO may hold mid-2013 summit to mark Afghan handover
By Adrian Croft
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - NATO is considering holding a summit in mid-2013 to mark a milestone in the handover of security responsibilities in Afghanistan to local forces, alliance Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Wednesday.
NATO-led forces are expected to cede the lead role for security in Afghanistan this spring to Afghan soldiers, 12 years after the United States invaded Afghanistan to oust the Taliban government harboring Osama bin Laden, the al Qaeda leader who masterminded the September 11 attacks on U.S. cities.
"No decision has been made but it is an idea that is being considered," Rasmussen told Reuters in an interview, when asked about the possibility of a June summit.
"A summit in mid-2013 could be a good idea to mark the milestone in Afghanistan, the fact that we will have handed over lead responsibility to the Afghans all over Afghanistan," he said.
NATO diplomats say there is talk of organizing a one-day summit in Brussels, possibly around the time that U.S. President Barack Obama travels to Northern Ireland for the G8 summit in June, but say no decision has been taken.
Obama announced last week that 34,000 troops, about half the U.S. force in Afghanistan, would withdraw by early 2014, bringing the United States close to wrapping up the costly, unpopular war.
The international force plans to hand over full responsibility for security to the Afghans by the end of 2014, with most international combat forces being withdrawn, leaving a smaller mission to train Afghan soldiers.
Rasmussen said a mid-year summit could also be an opportunity for NATO allies to discuss military capabilities and defense investment, hit in many countries by budget cuts, and to take decisions on the NATO-led training mission planned for Afghanistan after 2014. Continued...