NATO combat troops are set to pull out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014. Member states have promised continued commitment, but key questions still need to be resolved.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen is full of praise for the transfer of security responsibility in Afghanistan. By the time NATO member states finally withdraw the ISAF troops from Afghanistan in 2014, local police and army forces are set to bear sole responsibility.
"Our strategy is working, our timeline is on track and out commitment remains firm to help the people of Afghanistan to build a peaceful, stable and secure future - for their benefit and ours," Rasmussen said. Afghan security forces are already responsible for the security of three-quarters of the country, he added.
Westerwelle promises continued support
Not everyone's assessment is quite as optimistic. In recent months, there have been delays due, among other reasons, to repeated attacks by Afghan solidiers - or Taliban fighters dressed in Afghan uniforms - on ISAF soldiers. So far, more than 60 NATO soldiers have been killed in such attacks this year.
NATO is more careful nowadays when it comes to recruiting Afghan soliders.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle told journalists in Brussels that the withdrawal sounded easier than in fact it was, given the logistical, technical, military and political aspects of the withdrawal. He stressed that NATO did not want "Afghanistan to fall back into chaos, into a power vacuum, where terrorists and terrorism can thrive." NATO, Westerwelle added, would continue to support Afghanistan even after 2014.
Financial aspects of successor mission unclear
Continued support will mainly include military and police training. But the instructors must be protected - most likely by NATO soldiers. It is still unclear how many instructors and protective troops will remain in the country - but the crucial question is who will foor the bill. In times of tight national budgets and austerity measures, the issue is particularly contentious.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged allies to recall a commitment made at a NATO summit earlier this year in Chicago: "It is crucial for every nation to follow through on their commitments, and for those who haven't yet committed any funding to do so."
After 2014, according to NATO estimates, Afghanistan may need some three billion euros ($3.9 billion) annually for about ten years to ensure the country's stability.
Death of an ambassador
There was a tragic incident on the sidelines of the NATO meeting, though apparently unconnected to the summit.
Branislav Milinkovic, the head of Serbia's mission to NATO, died Tuesday evening (04.12.2012) after falling from a parking deck at the airport. According to Serbian reports, he committed suicide.
Milinkovic is said to have suddenly jumped off the platform while he and his delegation were waiting for a Foreign Ministry representative. No further details were provided.
Ambassador Milinkovic was a highly respected representative of his country who had earned the admiration of his fellow ambassadors, Rasmussen said in Brussels at the end of the two-day Foreign Ministers meeting.
Serbia is not a member of NATO, but since 2010 has had a representation in Brussels as part of the Partnership for Peace program.