NATO to plan for all options in Afghanistan, including pullout

BRUSSELS Thu Feb 27, 2014 1:43pm 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

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - NATO defense ministers agreed on Thursday to plan for all options for the alliance's future presence in Afghanistan including a possible pullout of all its troops this year, NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said.

With foreign troops due to end combat operations in Afghanistan at the close of 2014, NATO has been planning to keep a slimmed-down force there to train and assist Afghan forces who continue to battle Taliban insurgents.

But NATO and U.S. officials say President Hamid Karzai's refusal to sign an agreement with the United States creating a legal framework for U.S. troops to stay in Afghanistan could force it to pull out all its troops by the end of the year.

"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.

On Wednesday, Rasmussen said he still hoped plans to keep troops in Afghanistan beyond this year could be salvaged. But President Barack Obama has told the Pentagon to prepare for the possibility that no U.S. troops will be left in Afghanistan because of Karzai's refusal to sign the accord.

With an election due in April, NATO officials still hope Karzai's successor could sign the agreement.

"Let me be clear that this is not the outcome we want," Rasmussen said, referring to the option of no NATO troops staying behind in Afghanistan after this year.

"It is not the outcome we think is in the interest of the Afghan people. However, it might be the unfortunate outcome if there is no security agreement in due time. This is what is at stake."

The NATO-led force in Afghanistan has a current strength of more than 52,000 soldiers, including 33,600 U.S. troops.


Under NATO's preferred plan for a post-2014 training mission, that force would be cut to 8,000 to 12,000 soldiers, headquartered in Kabul with four regional bases.

Without going so far as a total pullout, dubbed the "zero option", NATO could also look at scaling back that plan and retain a smaller force just in the capital, diplomats say.

NATO's top military commander, U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlove, said on Thursday he and U.S. General Joe Dunford, who commands U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan, both very strongly supported the original plan for the post-2014 mission.

"That is the mission that we have planned and embraced and I think provides the best future for Afghanistan and that is the mission we hope to execute," he said in an interview with Reuters and The Wall Street Journal.

He said NATO commanders have already planned the drawdown of NATO forces in Afghanistan this year to give political leaders flexibility "all the way through the year" to either leave enough forces for the new training mission or to pull out altogether.

But Breedlove, NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Europe, said a decision "very late in the fall" to quit Afghanistan entirely could create problems in closing down major military bases such as Kandahar in the south or Mazar-i-Sharif in the north.

"If we get a very late decision on those large bases, we won't be able to get all the kit out, but we will get all of the high value (equipment), what we really want to bring out.

"You just can't say on December, you know, whatever your date, close Mazar-i-Sharif in three days. It is not going to happen," he said.

(Additional reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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Comments (2)
disengage wrote:
Obama and Nato can screw up anything they touch. if it weren’t so tragic and all those brave heros coming back to their countries, killed, wounded.Our monies needed in our countries, wasted in afghan, for what? for whom? We should have killed, all the terrorists, where they were burrowed their holes , both in afghan and Pakistan and left, period. Now look at you all, running with tails between your legs. You learned nothing from the soviet invasion. You became the invaders .This is directed at our head govt officials and not our brave and honorable militaries.

Feb 27, 2014 3:23pm EST  --  Report as abuse
carlmartel wrote:
The “zero option” is the most likely plan because Afghans will not accept extraterritoriality for western troops. If they commit crimes in Afghanistan after 2014, they must be tried in Afghan courts under Afghan laws.

China, Russia, and four central Asian countries in the SCO will watch Afghanistan afrer the US and NATO leave in December. They won’t have the logistical problems of the West because China, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan share common borders with Afghanistan, and Russia, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan are not too distant. China shares a border with Pakistan, builds and sell warplanes and ships, and transfers aircraft and naval technology to its southern neighbor. China has helped all allies build roads, railroads, airports, and other infrastructure to improve war supplies and to give economic development that may reduce support for muslim rebels.
China, Russia, and the four “stans” have conducted joint police and military exercises to prepare.

The advantage for the US and NATO is that the SCO will spend rubles and renminbis and save the West its dollars and euros. In addition, the US and NATO will be able to focus on defending the oil and gas infrastructure of north Africa and the Middle East that has become al Qaeda’s target since the death of bin Laden. Oil and gas attacks raise the terror premium, raise revenues for Arab oil states, raise donations from Arab lands for al Qaeda and other muslim rebels, inflict higher costs for the West’s mechanized economies and militaries, and let the US and NATO pay for both sides in the war.

The “Zero Option” in Afghanistan is the best plan for the US and NATO. The SCO must fight there because they live in the region, and the West should focus on north Africa and the Middle East with NO long term invasions and occupations.

Feb 27, 2014 4:30pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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