The US is planning to end its combat operations in Afghanistan by mid 2013 and would switch to a train-and-assist role,Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has said.
Hopefully,by mid- to the latter part of 2013,well be able to make a transition from a combat role to a training,advice and assist role,which is basically fulfilling what Lisbon was all about, Panetta told reporters.
Even as the transition came as a surprise to many,Panetta argued that this is in fact the fulfillment of the Lisbon strategy.
At the NATO summit in Lisbon last year,the alliance had agreed on a plan to bring all troops home from Afghanistan by 2014 after transitioning security responsibility to Afghan forces.
Last June,Obama ordered all 33,000 US surge troops home from Afghanistan by the middle of 2012. 2014 then becomes a year of consolidating the transition and making sure that those gains are in fact held,so that we can move towards a more enduring presence beyond 2014, Panetta said.
Hopefully,we could reach a point in the latter part of 2013 that we could make the same kind of transition we made in Iraq,from a combat role to a train-and-assist role, he said.
It doesnt mean that were not going to be combat-ready. We will be,because we always have to be in order to defend ourselves. We are going to be largely transitioning to a support role for the Afghan army as they take over these different areas in the future, he said in response to a question.
I think its really important for all of the nations that are involved,the NATO nations,the ISAF nations,to stand by the Lisbon strategy. The Lisbon strategy basically said that we ultimately are in a process where we will withdraw our forces by the end of 2014. And I think we ought to stick with that, Panetta said.