NATO-led forces resume most joint Afghan operations

BRUSSELS Mon Oct 1, 2012 2:13pm EDT

Secretary General of NATO Anders Fogh Rasmussen (C) smiles during a Change of Command Ceremony in which French Air Force General Stephane Abrial relinquished command to French Air Force General Jean-Paul Palomeros as NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Transformation in Norfolk, Virginia September 28, 2012. REUTERS/Rich-Joseph Facun

Secretary General of NATO Anders Fogh Rasmussen (C) smiles during a Change of Command Ceremony in which French Air Force General Stephane Abrial relinquished command to French Air Force General Jean-Paul Palomeros as NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Transformation in Norfolk, Virginia September 28, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Rich-Joseph Facun

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - NATO-led forces have resumed almost all operations alongside their Afghan counterparts, the NATO chief said on Monday, after commanders cut back joint missions because of a surge in insider attacks on foreign troops.

NATO announced curbs on joint operations on September 18 in response to the rise in "rogue" attacks and anger across the Muslim world over a film mocking the Prophet Mohammad.

Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said commanders in the field had now restarted most joint operations.

"Almost all partnered activities have now been resumed and that reflects an assessment made by our commanders as regards the overall security situation," he told a news conference in Brussels.

The order suspending most mentoring operations had applied to all front-line missions involving units smaller than an 800-strong battalion.

The move was widely regarded as a setback to NATO's plan to train Afghan security forces to gradually take over security for the whole country before the expected withdrawal of most foreign combat troops by the end of 2014.

At least 52 members of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force have been killed this year in attacks carried out by gunmen wearing Afghan police or army uniform.

"TRUST UNDERMINED"

Rasmussen conceded that the insider attacks had "undermined trust and confidence" between foreign and Afghan forces.

A suicide bomber killed 14 people, including three NATO soldiers and four police, and wounded 37 in Afghanistan's volatile eastern Khost province on Monday, a NATO spokeswoman and local Afghan officials said.

A witness told Reuters the bomber wearing a police uniform struck as U.S. soldiers patrolled the city of Khost. A NATO spokeswoman said only that the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber.

Once combat operations have ended, NATO plans to lead a mission from 2015 to train and advise Afghan security forces.

Rasmussen said he expected NATO defense ministers to approve a "broad framework" for that mission at a meeting in Brussels on Oct 9-10. Key details such as the budget and numbers of trainers are expected to take longer to work out.

"My goal is for us to agree on a detailed outline early next year and to finalize the plan well before the end of 2013. This will give us the time we need to make sure the transition to the new mission is seamless," Rasmussen said.

Rasmussen said six non-NATO countries had said they were prepared to contribute to the post-2014 training mission.

Diplomats said the six nations are Australia, New Zealand, Georgia, Ukraine, Sweden and Finland. It was unclear if they would contribute personnel or participate in some other way.

(Editing by Robert Woodward)

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