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20 mai 2012 7 20 /05 /mai /2012 11:40

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May. 19, 2012 Defense News (AFP)

 

CHICAGO — NATO’s chief on May 19 urged Pakistan to back efforts to stabilize Afghanistan as he prepared for talks with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, on the eve of a key NATO summit.

 

Zardari was invited to the summit in Chicago amid expectations that Pakistan will lift a six-month blockade against NATO supply trucks that was put in place after U.S. air strikes killed 26 Pakistani troops in November.

 

NATO has also pressed Islamabad to do more to prevent insurgents from taking advantage of the porous Afghan-Pakistani border region to take sanctuary inside Pakistan.

 

“We can’t solve the problems in Afghanistan without the positive engagement of Pakistan,” NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said at a policy forum in Chicago, which is hosting the May 20-21 summit.

 

“We have to solve these problems,” he said, referring to the safe havens used by insurgents in Pakistan to launch attacks on NATO troops across the border.

 

When he meets with Zardari, Rasmussen said he would “convey a couple of clear messages,” but he did not elaborate.

 

U.S. President Barack Obama will host fellow leaders for two days of talks focused on plans to gradually hand over security control to Afghan forces and pave the way for the withdrawal of 130,000 foreign combat troops by late 2014.

 

NATO hopes Afghanistan’s security forces, which will grow to 352,000 later this year, can take the lead throughout the country next year, enabling foreign troops to gradually switch from combat to training mode.

 

But France’s new President Francois Hollande has shaken up the carefully crafted transition plan, vowing to bring his 3,500 combat troops home this year, a year earlier than planned.

 

“The withdrawal is not negotiable. The withdrawal of combat forces is France’s decision and this decision will be implemented,” Hollande told reporters May 18 after White House talks with Obama.

 

Hollande, however, said he would honor a treaty signed by predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy to provide training support for Afghan police and military forces.

 

Despite the early French withdrawal, NATO wants to show a united front in the last two years of combat in an increasingly unpopular war in Europe and America.

 

The alliance will also use the summit to reassure Afghan President Hamid Karzai that NATO will fund his security forces and continue training beyond 2014.

 

“Let me be clear,” Rasmussen said. “NATO will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with Afghanistan.”

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