U.S. and NATO allies to announce ‘transition’ strategy in Afghanistan war

Defense and Foreign Ministers meeting at NATO headquarters on October 14, 2010.

From Karen DeYoung, the Washington Post:  The Obama administration and its NATO allies will declare late this week that the war in Afghanistan has made sufficient progress to begin turning security control over to its government by spring , months before the administration’s July deadline to start withdrawing U.S. troops, according to U.S. and European officials.

Even as it announces the "transition" process, which will not immediately include troop withdrawals, NATO will also state its intention to keep combat troops in Afghanistan until 2014, a date originally set by Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

The seemingly contradictory messages, in communiques and agreements to be released at NATO’s upcoming summit in Lisbon, are intended to reassure U.S. and European audiences that the process of ending the war has begun. …

"If the Taliban are telling their supporters and their soldiers today, the Americans are leaving in July of 2011, they’re going to discover very quickly in August and September of 2011 we’re still there and we’re still out there killing," [Secretary of Defense Robert] Gates said in a Tuesday interview with ABC News’s "Nightline. …"

In an interview Thursday at NATO headquarters in Brussels, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen drew sharp distinctions between an alliance commitment to begin the "transition" to Afghan security control, decisions by Petraeus on where initial transitions should occur and decisions by member nations to withdraw their troops. …

"The summit will take the political decision," Rasmussen said, "and then the specific [transition] decisions will come in theater."

Under the process about to be set in motion, the first tranche of proposed transition provinces or districts will be approved by the North Atlantic Council, NATO’s political-decision-making body, then by the Afghan government. Coalition troops being freed by the handover of responsibilities to Afghan forces will then be redeployed to other areas or tasks where they are still needed.

Several candidates for transition have already been suggested. France, which fields nearly 4,000 troops in Afghanistan, has proposed a transfer of its forces from the Surobi district in Kabul province to nearby Kapisa province. …

New NATO member commitments for additional trainers will also be announced at the summit, which Karzai will attend. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Thursday that his country would provide several hundred additional trainers after the scheduled departure of Canada’s combat troops next summer. NATO officials are hoping for a similar pledge from the Netherlands, which withdrew its combat troops this year. (photo: Getty)

Image: getty%2011%2014%2010%20NAC.jpg