Nato on Saturday endorsed a plan to hand over security operations in Afghanistan to the local government by 2014, but there were differences among its member countries on the deadline for ending combat operations.
But they also committed themselves to an “enduring partnership” even the draw down. Nato will remain committed to a lasting presence in Afghanistan, according to a joint declaration at the Nato summit in Lisbon on Saturday.
New Delhi feels Nato troops should stay in Afghanistan till the security situation stabilises there, officials told HT in Delhi. “Any quick-fix solution involving the hasty withdrawal of troop could lead to problems.”
According to the plan, Nato forces, which operate in Afghanistan as International Security Assistance Force, will start the transition process next year in 2011 and finish it by 2014, as proposed by Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai.
But will that mean the end of Nato’s combat operations in Afghanistan? There appeared to be some differences on this at the summit.
"I don't foresee ISAF troops in a combat role beyond 2014, provided of course that the security situation allows us to move into a more supportive role," Nato Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told reporters in Lisbon.
The UK, for instance, wants to be out by 2014. "Make no mistake about it, that is an absolute commitment and deadline for us," foreign secretary William Hague told Press Association.
The US is also keen on pulling out, but, there is a view here that announcing a deadline could send a wrong signal to the insurgents, and they might simply decide to lie low and wait for the draw down.
While not a part of ISAF, India is deeply invested in Afghanistan having committed over $1.5 billion in development projects. And its role and stake in that country is internationally recognised.
Indian officials have said they felt “relieved’ when they first heard of the plan to finish the drawdown only by 2014 and not 2011. With the security situation being far from good, India feared the Nato pullout would leave Afghanistan in a mess.
With HTC inputs from Delhi