Ladies and Gentlemen,
This is the largest ever gathering at a NATO Summit. It is a testament to our shared commitment to the Afghan people and the future of Afghanistan.
The NATO-led ISAF mission has played a vital role in denying terrorists a safe haven in Afghanistan. Today we will discuss how to complete the transition of security responsibility to the Afghan Security Forces, a process we set in motion at our last NATO summit in Lisbon in 2010.
Afghan troops and police are already in the lead for the security of half the population. And last week, President Karzai announced the third group of Afghan provinces, cities and districts to come under Afghan lead.
Transition means the people of Afghanistan increasingly see their own army and police in their towns and villages, providing their security. This is an important sign of progress towards our shared goal: an Afghanistan governed and secured by Afghans, for Afghans.
In the course of next year, we expect that Afghan Security Forces will have assumed the lead for security responsibility across the whole of Afghanistan.
That will be a significant marker towards completing the journey of transition. As Afghan forces step up, our forces will step back into a supporting role, focusing on training, advising and assisting our Afghan partners. And by the end of 2014, Afghan forces have assumed full security responsibility throughout Afghanistan. By end of 2014, the ISAF operation will terminate and the NATO-led combat mission will end.
But our commitment is for the long-term. From 2015, we expect to maintain a NATO-led presence to train, advise, and assist the Afghan security forces. And NATO and ISAF nations will also pay their share to help sustain the army and police Afghanistan needs for the coming years.
We all remain committed to our goal: a secure and democratic Afghanistan in a stable region.