WASHINGTON – NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen warned that Afghanistan – despite a disputed election – must sign a security pact on a post-combat international training mission by September, or there will be severe problems for the Western alliance.
Rasmussen said after meeting US President Barack Obama that allegations of poll fraud were a grave concern and he hoped an audit could produce a credible outcome so the new Afghan president could sign security agreements before the NATO summit in Wales in early September.
"If there is no clarification of this process before the NATO summit in September, it is hard to see how the security agreements could be signed before the summit,” the NATO chief said. "In that case, we would be faced with severe problems as regards planning for a training mission after 2014."
Rasmussen stressed that Afghanistan's signature on a Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the United States and a companion security deal with NATO nations were a "pre-requisite" for a force that will initially number around 10,000 men and then taper down gradually over the next several years.
The Obama administration has previously warned that there will no troops left behind to train Afghan forces if the deal, which outgoing Afghan President Hamid Karzai has refused to sign, is not completed. Both candidates in Afghanistan's disputed presidential election, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani, have told Washington they will endorse the deal.
But it is unclear whether prolonged wrangling over the result of second round presidential polls will delay the Afghan inauguration, set for August 2, and the signing of the deal laying down the legal, political and military scope of the future NATO force. The remaining 50,000 international combat troops are due to leave Afghanistan by the end of the year, and foreign forces will no longer patrol Afghan towns or cities.