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NATO chief sees financial aid for Afghan forces

Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) – NATO’s secretary-general says he’s optimistic that the international community will continue to finance the Afghan security forces.

“This summit is not a pledging conference, but nevertheless a number of countries have announced substantial contributions to the Afghan security forces, so I’m optimistic,” Anders Fogh Rasmussen told CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.

The international community in general has a responsibility and interest in ensuring the Afghan forces take full responsibility for the country’s security after 2014 to prevent terrorists from reestablishing safe havens and launching attacks against Europe and the United States, the NATO chief said.

The Afghan security forces are expected to cost about $4.1 billion a year. The Afghan government will pay about $500 million of that, and the rest will come from donors. The NATO summit, which opens in Chicago on Sunday, is not a pledging conference, but there will be much talk about who will pay. About $1.3 billion is expected to come from nations in the NATO coalition other than the United States. Pledges for about a third of that have been announced by Australia and European nations. U.S. taxpayers and some nations outside the military coalition likely will make up the $2.3 billion difference.

President Barack Obama is expected to meet with Afghan President Hamid Karzai on the summit’s sidelines to discuss planning for Afghanistan’s 2014 elections and the prospect of a political settlement with the Taliban. NATO’s plans keep foreign forces in Afghanistan through the 2014 election but withdrawing by 2015.

Fogh Rasmussen pointed to Afghanistan as an example of NATO interests extending beyond the alliance countries’ borders.

“We are in Afghanistan to prevent the country from once again becoming a safe haven for terrorists, who can use that safe haven as a launching pad for terrorist attacks against Europe and North America,” he said. “So though territorial defense remains the core task of NATO, we realize that defense of our borders may well start far from our borders in today’s world.”

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