NATO to hold 2014 summit on Afghanistan troop withdrawal

Fri May 31, 2013 1:24pm EDT
 
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By Roberta Rampton

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - NATO countries will hold a summit next year to discuss troop withdrawals from Afghanistan, U.S. President Barack Obama said on Friday after a meeting with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

The United States and its 28 NATO allies have been working toward withdrawing combat troops in 2014, a milestone Rasmussen said is in sight.

There are 62,000 U.S. troops and 34,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan. Obama and Rasmussen did not say how many would remain in the country to help support the Afghan government as it takes responsibility for its own security.

Rasmussen said NATO is preparing a training mission for Afghanistan in 2015. "It will be a very different mission. A non-combat mission with a significantly lower number of troops," he said.

The leaders also discussed their vision for NATO's future role in global security, including how to combat emerging threats like cyber security, Obama said.

Obama said Rasmussen would identify the host country for the 2014 summit, which will look at building up NATO's ability to address cyber threats and "lock in" commitments by members.

"That requires burden-sharing on the part of all NATO members. It means that even during times of austerity, that we work smarter together to ensure that we can meet and are prepared for any threats that may arise," Obama said.

The United States has been urging European allies for years to increase their financial support for NATO, a difficult case to make during the recent economic crisis.

The Afghanistan war started in 2001 after the September 11 attacks on the United States. U.S.-led forces toppled Afghanistan's Taliban leaders who had harbored the al Qaeda network responsible for the hijacked airliner attacks.

(Additional reporting by Mark Felsenthal; Editing by Doina Chiacu)