Windsor Star

Harper to help plot new chapter

NATO summit looks beyond Afghanista­n

- JULIET O’NEILL

LISBON Prime Minister Stephen Harper joins U.S. President Barack Obama and other NATO leaders as they set the stage for a post-combat partnershi­p with Afghanista­n at a summit today and Saturday in Lisbon.

Leaders of NATO’s 28 member countries are poised to endorse a European missile defence system, embark on fat-cutting reforms and, along with non-NATO countries which have been pouring troops and money into Afghanista­n for a decade, outline a transition plan from foreign troops to Afghan control over security by the end of 2014.

They are expected to adopt a “strategic concept” that gives the North Atlantic Treaty Organizati­on a new mission of protecting European territory and population­s from ballistic missile attacks.

They are also to give the green light for command structure reforms aimed at cutting NATO staff to 9,000 personnel, down from 13,000, and significan­tly reduce the number of NATO agencies.

NATO leaders will be joined on their second day of meetings Saturday by an internatio­nal “who’s who” on Afghanista­n, where NATO-led forces from 48 nations seek to hand the lead over security to local forces by the end of 2014.

Among the “who’s who” are Afghan President Hamid Karzai, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, the head of the World Bank and leaders of two dozen non-NATO countries who contribute to the 130,400-strong Internatio­nal Security Assistance Force in Afghanista­n.

Harper, who arrived in Lisbon on Thursday, signalled Canada’s contributi­on to NATO’s effort before the summit by announcing that 950 Canadian toops will train Afghan military forces until 2014.

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