"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," said NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the start of the meeting.
Almost 60 leaders from NATO and ISAF partner nations, as well as Russia, Japan and Central Asian countries are being joined by heads of international organisations, including the United Nations, the European Union and the World Bank. This is the largest ever gathering for Afghanistan at a NATO summit.
"In the course of next year, we expect to see Afghan security forces in the lead for combat operations across the country. That will be a significant marker towards completing the journey of transition. As the Afghan forces step up, our forces will step back into a supporting role, focusing on training, advising and assisting our Afghan partners," Mr. Fogh Rasmussen said. "And by the end of 2014, Afghan forces will be fully in charge of security operations throughout the country."
"Our current mission will be completed, but our commitment is for the long-term,"the NATO Secretary General underlined.
The Secretary General highlighted President Karzai's recent announcement of the third group of Afghan provinces, districts and cities to come under Afghan security lead as an important sign of progress.
NATO and ISAF partners are expected to endorse a Strategic Plan for Afghanistan, which maps out how nations are to successfully complete the process of security transition to Afghan authorities by the end of 2014. The plan also outlines the nature of a new and different post-2014 NATO-led mission, which will focus on training, advising and assisting the Afghan Security Forces.
Nations are also expected to reaffirm their commitment to the long-term financial sustainment of the Afghan National Security Forces. A number of NATO and ISAF partners have already made pledges to help meet those costs. "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 fair share to help sustain the army and police Afghanistan needs for the future," Mr Fogh Rasmussen said.
ISAF nations and Afghanistan are set to adopt a Joint Declaration at the meeting which will reaffirm the close partnership between the Afghan Government and the international community . It will make clear that Afghanistan will not stand alone in the years to come.
"As we look ahead, we know the challenges we still face. But we also acknowledge the real progress we have made together. We remain committed to our goal: a secure and democratic Afghanistan in a stable region," said the NATO Secretary General.
During the meeting, leaders are also expected to endorse the Strategic Progress Report on the Action Plan to Mainstream United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security into NATO-led operations and missions.