During the second day of the NATO summit in Chicago, the allies launched the first operational phase of a missile defence system that will be capable by the end of 2015 of defending the countries and populations of its 28 member countries from the growing threat of missiles from “hostile neighbours”, and approved over 20 multinational projects, including the purchase of a fleet of surveillance drones (AGS) and demining robots, as part of a “smart defence” strategy, based on more cooperation and reduced waste, launched two years ago at the Lisbon summit to ensure adequate security levels in times of austerity. NATO urged Russia to cooperate on the missile-defence system, and expressed the hope that Moscow would decide to join the front against this common threat. This was Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussem’s comment during a press conference in Chicago. “Russia has nothing to fear from our defence system, which is purely defensive and not aimed at any country in particular”, he added.
Afghanistan, troops no longer operational as of mid-2013
NATO confirmed its Afghanistan exit strategy during the Chicago summit. The Afghan forces are to be made operational as of mid-2013, with the Atlantic Alliance troops ceasing to fight and remaining with the predominant function of offering support. “We will continue to train and equip the Afghan forces for the whole of 2013”, said General John Allen, head of ISAF, confirming complete troop withdrawal by the end of 2014. French President Francois Hollande assured Obama and NATO Secretary Anders Fogh Rasmussen that French troops would be withdrawn by the end of the year, declaring that the “withdrawal is non-negotiable”. France has, however, sought to replace its troops’ fighting role with a different kind of support – training Afghan troops and economic contributions – in order to make its exit less traumatic. According to Rasmussen, France’s choice is in keeping with a calendar that calls for the reduction and gradual change in role of the approximately 130,000 ISAF mission troops.