NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen on Tuesday said Pakistan had an important role to play in the Afghanistan peace process, a part that should not be undermined.
Rasmussen told a group of Afghan journalists in the Belgian capital: “I think the peace effort in Afghanistan needs continued political engagement and Pakistan can play an active role in this regard.”
He promised: “We will continue to support the Afghan forces.” The strength of Afghan forces had significantly surged during the last two years, he noted. He acknowledged much had been achieved due to the sacrifices rendered by them.
The post-2014 NATO mission would focus on training, advising and assisting Afghan forces, he said. “We will not leave the Afghans alone; we will continue to stand behind them.”
NATO and the international community would continue assisting the Afghans, who must decide their future themselves, he continued. Stressing the early inking of the Afghan-US security deal, the secretary general regretted the delay.
In the absence of the Afghan-US accord, NATO would not ink the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with Kabul. Subsequently, foreign troops would have to leave Afghanistan after 2014, he maintained.
Pointing to the upcoming presidential and provincial council elections, he said the process being led by Afghans. The ballot would be held in a free, fair and inclusive manner and its outcome would be acceptable to all Afghans, he hoped.
In response to a question, Rasmussen said 28 NATO member countries had so far decided to participate in the new Afghan mission. Ten other countries have pledged cooperation but are yet to take a final decision.