March 2014 confirmed end to Afghan training mission
LISBON, PORTUGAL Canada’s end date of March 2014 for a training mission in Afghanistan is firm despite NATO’s plan to continue non-combat operations there, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said Friday.
“We might be pressured, obviously, but I think the prime minister has made this perfectly clear. March of 2014 is when we will be leaving,” Cannon said at a news conference.
He spoke after the head of NATO said the alliance is poised to announce today a goal of ending its combat operations in Afghanistan in 2014, but that foreign troops will remain for training and education.
NATO secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the transition to Afghanistan taking the lead in its own security begins in 2011 “and I find it realistic that the process will be completed by the end of 2014.”
He stressed that international forces would remain after 2014 “but not in a combat role, in a more supportive role, including training and education of Afghan security forces.”
Rasmussen made the remarks at a news conference announcing the adoption by NATO country leaders of a new “strategic concept” that includes a commitment to building a European ballistic missile defence system.
Earlier in the day, Canada was praised for its “absolutely essential” commitment of military trainers in Afghanistan. Rasmussen personally thanked Prime Minister Stephen Harper before the leaders of 28 member countries gathered at Lisbon’s giant bayside EXPO centre.
“The secretary general expressed NATO’s appreciation for Canada’s post-2011 engagement to provide aid, development and military training after the combat mission ends next July,” Harper’s spokesman Dimitri Soudas said after the 25-minute meeting at Harper’s hotel.