NATO to plan for all options in Afghanistan, including 'zero option'

BRUSSELS Thu Feb 27, 2014 8:04am EST

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen addresses a news conference during a NATO defence ministers meeting at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels February 27, 2014. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen addresses a news conference during a NATO defence ministers meeting at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels February 27, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Francois Lenoir

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - NATO defense ministers agreed on Thursday to plan for all options for the alliance's future presence in Afghanistan, including the possibility it may have to pull out all its troops at the end of this year, NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Thursday.

NATO has been planning to keep a slimmed-down force in Afghanistan after the end of this year to train and assist Afghan forces, but NATO and U.S. officials say President Hamid Karzai's refusal to sign a security agreement with the United States could force it to pull out all its troops.

"Today we agreed the need to plan for all possible outcomes including the possibility that we may not be able to deploy to Afghanistan after 2014 due to the persistent delays we have seen," NATO Secretary-General Rasmussen told a news conference.

(Reporting by Adrian Croft; editing by John O'Donnell)

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