Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Afghan turmoil threatens NATO's 'mission accomplished' plans --- (Reuters) - NATO will declare "mission accomplished" this week as it winds down more than a decade of operations in Afghanistan but departing combat troops look likely to leave behind political turmoil and an emboldened insurgency. -- The embattled country is also suffering a sharp economic slowdown. -- NATO had hoped its summit in Wales on Thursday and Friday would herald a smooth handover of security at the end of this year from the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to Afghan forces. It then plans to cut back its role to a smaller mission to train and advise Afghan troops. -- The 28-nation alliance had also hoped to celebrate Afghanistan's first democratic transfer of power by inviting a new president to share the spotlight with U.S. President Barack Obama and the other 27 allied leaders. -- Instead, NATO diplomats privately admit that the backdrop to the summit is the "worst case scenario". -- A dispute over a presidential election marred by alleged fraud has created a political vacuum which has sown doubts over whether NATO will have a legal basis for leaving any troops in Afghanistan at all after this year. -- NATO diplomats were left guessing for weeks about who would represent Afghanistan at the summit. In the absence of a new president, outgoing President Hamid Karzai is staying away, leaving Defense Minister Bismillah Khan Mohammadi to represent Afghanistan. -- Sending a lower-level representative rather than a new president will undermine Afghanistan’s ability to argue for future Western financial assistance, a U.S. official said. --- NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen put a brave face on the situation at a Brussels news conference on Monday, declaring NATO had achieved its goals in Afghanistan. -- "We have done what we set out to do. We have denied safe haven to international terrorists. We have built up capable Afghan forces of 350,000 troops and police. So our nations are safer, and Afghanistan is stronger," he said. -- But despite suffering heavy casualties and spending vast sums in Afghanistan, NATO has failed in its key goal of bringing security to the country, some analysts say. -- On NATO's watch, there has been a "marked and measurable deterioration of security", said Graeme Smith, senior analyst at the International Crisis Group (ICG) think tank in Kabul. -- NATO has also faced criticism over civilians killed in air strikes or night raids. -- Kabul residents nonetheless worry that the departure of foreign forces could lead to worse violence or the return of the Taliban, ousted from power by a U.S.-led invasion in 2001. - More, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/09/02/us-nato-summit-afghanistan-idUSKBN0GX0PP20140902


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