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Norway plots Afghan withdrawal

UPDATED: Three of Norway’s top government ministers traveled to the NATO summit in Lisbon on Friday, where the war in Afghanistan was high on the agenda. The Norwegian ministers want to withdraw their troops by the end of 2014, but shied away from any exact deadline.

Norway's Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, U.S. President Barack Obama and Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron (L to R) talk during the NATO summit in Lisbon November 19, 2010. REUTERS/Yves Herman (PORTUGAL - Tags: MILITARY POLITICS)

Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre and Defense Minister Grete Faremo were all attending the NATO top meeting. Faremo cautioned, though, that a withdrawal date wasn’t carved in stone.

“We support (Afghan President Hamid) Karzai’s plan that all international forces should be out by the end of 2014,” Faremo told news bureau NTB. She noted, however, that “we have said all along that we went in with our allies and we’ll go out with our allies.”

‘Gradual transfer’
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has said he’ll make it clear that a “gradual transfer” of responsibility for Afghan security to the Afghans themselves will begin in 2011. Karzai has set a goal of having security responsibility for the entire country by 2015.

Some NATO officials fear a 2014 withdrawal deadline will be difficult to meet, but Faremo said she doesn’t think the handover of responsibility will be delayed.

“I view the process as going along as planned,” she said.

Stoltenberg said after the summit that a transfer of responsibility for Afghan security isn’t the same as a withdrawal of forces. “But it will mean that our contribution will be changed to an advisory and training role,” he said.

(PHOTO: Norway’s Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg at the NATO summit, left, with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron.)

Nuclear debate
Faremo also expected approval of a new “strategic concept” for NATO to be approved during the summit in Lisbon. “But when so many top politicians meet, it would be wrong to say that there won’t be discussions up to the last minute,” she said.

She said the new NATO strategy reflects Norwegian interests well, through its goal of working for a world without nuclear weapons. Germany wants to tone down the importance of nuclear weapons and place more importance on conventional weapons and rocket shields, but faces opposition, especially from France.

Faremo said the Norwegians will keep working for reduced importance of nuclear weapons in NATO. Those attending the summit would also try to agree on reforms of its command structure, a common missile defense and tighter cooperation with Russia. Faremo said Norway favors a “partnership role” for Russia in NATO.

Russian President Dimitry Medvedev agreed to the missile defense program, making the summit a success in Rasmussen’s view.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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