NATO troops will remain in Afghanistan for as long as is deemed necessary, regardless of the government that emerges from its fraud-tainted elections, the alliance's new secretary-general said today.
"We need to keep this election in perspective. Whatever happens, and I hope the final results will be credible, we must remember that we don't have 60,000 troops in Afghanistan simply for elections," said Anders Fogh Ramussen.
"Credible elections are one part of the many important parts of that, but we shouldn't forget that we have successfully kept Afghanistan from becoming once again a safe haven for terrorists and we will continue to do so," he added.
Rasmussen's remarks, at a regular media conference he has pledged to hold since taking office last month, came as doubts swirl about the fair conduct of the August 20 presidential and provincial polls.
Results from nearly half the polling stations used in the country's second direct presidential vote, marred by an escalating Taliban insurgency and low turnout, give the lead to the incumbent, President Hamid Karzai.
Rasmussen welcomed a new, unpublished, report by General Stanley McChrystal, the US commander in Afghanistan, assessing the fight against the insurgency led by the Taliban fundamentalist militia and Al-Qaeda with backing from crime gangs.