MOSCOW, November 7 (RIA Novosti) — NATO Secretary General thanked the bloc's military and civilian personnel for 13 years of service in Afghanistan, highlighting the huge changes Afghanistan has achieved as a result of the mission, NATO said in a Friday statement on its website.
"You [the NATO personnel] have made a real difference. You have helped Afghanistan come a long way," Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said as quoted in the statement.
"I have come here to pay particular tribute to all those who gave their lives in the course of their duties. We honour their sacrifice. We keep in our thoughts those who have been injured. And we are grateful to all your families," he added.
The NATO chief pointed out that the bloc's instructors had helped efficiently organize Afghan troops and made the future safer both for Afghanistan and the West.
NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) has been deployed to Afghanistan since 2001 in order to help the nation rebuild government institutions and security forces, as the US-led coalition troops were fighting to remove the Taliban from power.
The ISAF's mission is scheduled to finish at the end of 2014. From January 1, 2015 NATO will lead a new mission, called Resolute Support, to provide training and non-combat assistance to the Afghan National Security Forces, and also back the Central Asian nation's reforms. The operation will involve some 12,000 personnel.