NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen announced from Brussels that as of late 2013 Nato’s ISAF force would be concentrating its activities on training and assistance for Afghan forces, while Italy, an essential part of the international coalition in Afghanistan, renewed its already operational commitment to formation, training and mentoring as well as development. Afghan President Hamid Karzai launched his tour of European capitals from Rome, signing a bilateral agreement with Premier Mario Monti aimed at strengthening political dialogue, security and police force cooperation, as well as economic cooperation and counter-drug trafficking.
The importance of this agreement was one of the central points of discussion in Minister Giulio Terzi’s meeting at the foreign ministry in Rome with General John. R. Allen, commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. The meeting offered General Allen an opportunity to thank Terzi for Italy’s pivotal role in Afghanistan and convey his great admiration for the Italian military’s exemplary performance in the context of ISAF, especially at this particularly delicate stage. Minister Terzi reiterated Italy’s commitment to maintaining its role in Afghanistan in line with its allies, not least on the civilian level and particularly in terms of training, precisely in order to facilitate a transition that is so “crucial to the entire region”.
The NATO Secretary General had previously announced in Brussels that ISAF’s role would be changing, while he confirmed that the final transition in Afghanistan would be by the end of 2014, as decided at the Lisbon summit. The Lisbon decisions envisage the complete handover of responsibility for security to the Afghan forces by the end of 2014, Rasmussen said. “The transition will proceed through 2012. We expect the last Afghan provinces to come under Afghan security force control by the second half of 2013”, the NATO chief added. “At that point our role will begin to gradually change: from a fighting one to one more focused on formation and training”, he specified. “It is absolutely essential that this change take place in a coordinated manner and factor in the situation on the ground”, he warned. The NATO defence ministers will consult with each other on this, but the Lisbon decisions, Rasmussen repeated, “remain the pilasters of our strategy and the Alliance’s solidarity and cohesion will be maintained”.