MOSCOW, November 6 (RIA Novosti) — NATO's relationship with Afghanistan will enter a "new chapter" as the alliance's ongoing mission in the country ends on December 31 and a new non-combat mission comes into force, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said at a joint press conference with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.
"At the end of this year, Afghan forces will resume full responsibility for the security of this country. I am confident that they are ready <…>. Next year we will open a new chapter. The future of Afghanistan will be in Afghan hands, but our support will continue," Stoltenberg said.
NATO forces will no longer engage in combat missions, he stated, but "will start a new mission to train, advice and assist Afghan forces. We will also continue our financial support. And, as President Ghani and I discussed, we will further develop our long-term partnership with Afghanistan."
"We have made our nations safer by pursuing the international terrorists who used Afghanistan as a safe haven to launch horrific attacks, though the progress has come at a great cost to NATO, its partners and Afghanistan itself, Stoltenberg said, "we will hold those who lost their lives in our memories and we must honor them by remaining committed to our common efforts," he added.
Ghani too stressed that "December 31 does not mean end of NATO cooperation". Afghan authorities are determined to create a system where Afghanistan can "stand on its feet", though this does not mean that it would no longer need international support, the president said.
NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) has been active in Afghanistan since late 2001. As of October, some 34,412 ISAF troops were deployed in the country.