Lisbon (Portugal), Nov.21 (ANI): NATO and Afghanistan have agreed to the goal of a phased transfer of security responsibility to the Afghan government by the end of 2014.
NATO officials, however, acknowledged that the allied forces would remain in Afghanistan, at least in a support role, well beyond that date, the New York Times reports.
NATO and American officials also warned that if Afghanistan had not made sufficient progress in managing its own security, 2014 was not a hard and fast deadline for the end of combat operations.
"We will stay after transition in a supporting role," Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the secretary general of NATO, said at a news conference on Saturday after signing a long-term security agreement with President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan.
NATO officials had previously said it was likely that tens of thousands of support troops would remain in Afghanistan past 2014 to provide training and other security guarantees to Kabul.
But the statements by Mr. Rasmussen and other officials on Saturday were the most definitive to date. (ANI)