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Germany urges Karzai to sign post-2014 forces pact
 
 
 

MAZAR-I-SHARIF  - Germany’s defence minister on a visit to Afghanistan Wednesday urged President Hamid Karzai to quickly sign a deal to pave the way for a continued Nato presence after 2014.
Karzai has so far refused to sign the agreement setting out rules for Western training and security support after most combat forces pull out, frustrating Washington which has warned it may withdraw altogether and freeze its aid.
“We are urgently waiting for a signature from the Afghan side,” said German Defence Minister Thomas de Maiziere, whose country has offered to also keep hundreds of forces in the country post-2014.
“We are prepared for all options, but not endlessly,” the minister told reporters on the flight to Afghanistan. “Such a deployment and redeployment require forward planning.”
Karzai had first endorsed the deal - which lays out rules for US troops, and would be the basis for other Nato forces - but later said it could only be signed after an April presidential election.
De Maiziere conceded that “public pressure” was unlikely to have an effect on Karzai, but warned that there was no time to lose in planning the complex operation. “An agreement after the presidential election, which could go into a second round, and which would then be followed by a decision by the Americans, would certainly be too late,” he said.
De Maiziere also thanked German troops who have been deployed in the country’s north in their longest combat operation since World War II, saying that in Afghanistan “German soldiers had to learn to fight”.
The day the minister visited the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, a suicide bomber at Kabul airport detonated an explosives-laden vehicle near a German Nato military convoy, killing himself but causing no other casualties, officials said.
Meanwhile, Nato said Wednesday that current head Anders Fogh Rasmussen will stay in his post two months longer than previously expected to prepare and oversee the military alliance’s next leaders summit in Britain in Sept. Rasmussen was initially due to complete his four-year term in July 2013 but that was extended by one year to July 2014. Nato member ambassadors have now decided that he should stay in office until the end of September 2014 “to enable him to prepare and preside” at the summit in south Wales earlier that month, a statement said.
The last summit was held in 2012 in Chicago.
The 2014 summit comes before the planned withdrawal of NATO forces from Afghanistan, its biggest and longest military operation.
NATO currently plans to maintain a training and assistance mission in Afghanistan post-2014 but its future is in doubt as Afghan President Hamid Karzai is refusing to sign a security pact with Washington on its legal and operational status.
Washington and NATO both say there can be no continued alliance presence in Afghanistan without such a pact.
Rasmussen, 60 and a former Danish prime minister, was appointed for the maximum single NATO term in 2009.
Among names mentioned as possible successors for a post traditionally held by a European are former Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini, as well as the Belgian and Polish defence ministers, Pieter de Crem and Radoslaw Sikorski.

Meanwhile, Nato said Wednesday that current head Anders Fogh Rasmussen will stay in his post two months longer than previously expected to prepare and oversee the military alliance’s next leaders summit in Britain in September.
Rasmussen was initially due to complete his four-year term in July 2013 but that was extended by one year to July 2014. Nato member ambassadors have now decided that he should stay in office until the end of September 2014 “to enable him to prepare and preside” at the summit in south Wales earlier that month, a statement said.
The last summit was held in 2012 in Chicago. The 2014 summit comes before the planned withdrawal of NATO forces from Afghanistan, its biggest and longest military operation.

 
 
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