by Lolita C. Baldor
Sep 04, 2014
(two days before the vote audit was completed)
Because the presidential election is not final, Afghan Defense Minister Gen. Bismullah Khan Mohammadi, represented his country at the summit. Outgoing President Hamid Karzai and the two candidates did not attend.Instead, Rasmussen said, the two candidates, former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah and ex-Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, sent a message to NATO, indicating “that they will do all they can to reach a political agreement.”
In a separate private meeting Thursday on the sidelines of the summit, Mohammadi reassured Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel that both presidential candidates continue to support the security agreement and that “solid progress toward the completion of the election audit” is being made, said Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary.
Senior U.S. military leaders are also optimistic despite the delays. They believe that the Afghans will resolve the election stand-off, and the winner will sign the security agreement.
But last week, Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, who was stepping down as the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, said that the election stalemate this summer hurt progress in training the country’s military.
Speaking as he was leaving Afghanistan, Dunford said resolving the political chaos will be key to that military’s success in 2015.
Just prior to the summit’s start, the Taliban in a dawn attack Thursday struck a government compound in eastern Afghanistan, killing at least 12 people.
In a stark message to leaders at the NATO summit, the group said that the exit of all foreign combat troops at the end of the year is proof that “no nation is able to subdue a free nation, especially a nation proud and free such as Afghanistan.”
Rasmussen said NATO is in the process of identifying forces for the noncombat advisory mission, but some other nations haven’t made firm commitments because of the ongoing election uncertainty.
Once the politics are settled, he said he is confident nations will fully fill the training mission requirements.
Under an agreement reached at the NATO summit in Chicago in 2012, allies pledged to fund an Afghan force of 230,000 after 2014. It would cost the allies about $4.1 billion annually.
Associated Press writer John-Thor Dahlburg contributed to this report.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press…