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NATO stands by Afghan target date

Published By United Press International
BRUSSELS, Dec. 5 (UPI) -- Foreign ministers from NATO countries expressed a commitment to the long-term security interests of Afghanistan, the NATO secretary-general said.

NATO allies in May agreed to pull their forces out of Afghanistan by 2014 as Afghan forces gain strength. Foreign ministers gathered in Brussels reaffirmed their commitment to that goal.

"At the Chicago summit in May, we committed to play our part in developing appropriate, coherent and effective funding mechanisms for the Afghan forces," NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Wednesday in a statement. "Today 52 nations reaffirmed those commitments."

Some governments have started pulling their troops out of the country ahead of the 2014 target date. Rasmussen last month said was concerned that cuts in defense spending during tough economic times may harm long-term goals in multilateral operations like the Afghan conflict.

NATO and U.S. defense leaders say Afghan forces are taking the lead in areas populated largely by civilians. Afghanistan holds presidential and provincial council elections April 5, 2014.
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Race winner Bradley Wiggins of Great Britain (C) stands between second place finisher Christopher Froome of Great Britain (L) and third place finisher Vincenzo Nibali of Italy on the presentation podium following the final stage of the Tour de France in Paris on July 22, 2012. Wiggins of Great Britain became that country's first ever overall winner of the Tour de France. UPI/David Silpa