Secretary of State Clinton & President Obama in Lisbon: NATO
NATO nations formally agreed Saturday to start turning over Afghanistan’s security to its military next year and give local forces full control by 2014. The U.S. and its allies appeared to disagree on when NATO combat operations would end.
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said he did not expect NATO troops to stay in the fight against the Taliban after 2014.
“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,” Fogh Rasmussen told reporters, using the acronym for the International Security Assistance Force that is led by NATO.
Later, a senior Obama administration official said the U.S. had not committed to ending its combat mission in Afghanistan at the end of 2014. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss internal administration discussions.
The U.S. official said a decision on changing the U.S. mission in Afghanistan is not imminent because it is still unclear what the security needs and resources will be as the 2014 transition proceeds. Each NATO member country will make an individual decision on when their combat mission will change, the official said.
The U.S. view may reflect a reluctance to forecast when combat will end, in order not to give the Taliban a sense of hope for outlasting their adversary. It may also indicate less certainty by the U.S. that Afghans will be able to take full control by 2014, and perhaps a greater eagerness among the Europeans to be done with a nine-year combat operation.
Seeking to discount the apparent difference in views on combat beyond 2014, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said that just because the U.S. hasn’t decided to end its combat mission in 2014 doesn’t mean it couldn’t eventually do so.
Asked about the matter while visiting Chile, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates suggested to reporters that a combat role for U.S. forces in Afghanistan was unlikely beyond 2014, but he did not rule it out…
I’ll admit that after reading Woodward’s new book “Obama’s Wars” I am disinclined to believe anything the Pentagon/Defense Department says. The impression I was left with from the book was that a) if the military has its way we’ll never leave but just as in Iraq we will create a highly militarized diplomatic presence that leaves no question about the US’s permanent role in the country and b) the military are not providing Obama with good advise and they continue to try to paint him into a corner.
Here are some photos from Secretary Clinton’s day in Lisbon thus far: