Russia criticises NATO’s Afghan pullout planAgence France-Presse . Brussels
Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov on Thursday criticised NATO’s plan to withdraw combat troops from Afghanistan in 2014, stressing that China was concerned about it too.
Speaking after talks with NATO foreign ministers in Brussels, Lavrov raised concerns about ‘unclear planning’ for a mission he said was aimed at eliminating the threat of terrorism emanating from Afghanistan.
‘As long as Afghanistan is not able to ensure by itself the security in the country, the artificial timelines of withdrawal are not correct and they should not be set this way,’ Lavrov told a news conference.
‘By the way, our Central Asian partners are also concerned about that. China and many other states ask the same questions,’ he said, adding that several countries have an interest in what happens in Afghanistan.
NATO secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen rejected Lavrov’s assessment, insisting that the transition had been ‘carefully prepared’ and agreed by Afghan president Hamid Karzai.
‘It’s definitely not artificial. It has been carefully examined, been carefully discussed with our Afghan partners and agreed,’ he said.
NATO plans to give Afghan security forces the lead across the country some time next year in order to pave the way for the withdrawal of foreign combat troops by the end of 2014.
Rasmussen said NATO would continue to train, advise and assist Afghan security forces after 2014 and renewed calls for the international community, including Russia and China, to help fund the effort.
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