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ABU DHABI, December 28 /TASS/. NATO coalition forces and the United States are ending their International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission in Afghanistan on Sunday. Representatives of the Afghan and NATO leaderships will attend events that will take place across the country on the occasion.
The ISAF mission will be declared to be over at an official ceremony whose time and venue are being kept secret for security reasons.
"As we complete the international combat mission at the end of 2014, we open a new chapter in the relationship between NATO and Afghanistan. The security of Afghanistan will be fully in the hands of the country’s 350,000 Afghan soldiers and police. But NATO Allies, together with many partner nations, will remain to train, advise and assist them. We are not walking away," NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in a statement published on NATO official website.
"This mandate was carried out at great cost, but with great success. We will always remember the sacrifice of international and Afghan forces, who deserve our respect and our gratitude," Stoltenberg went on to say.
Over the past 13 years, ISAF lost more than 3,500 servicemen in Afghanistan of which approximately 2,200 were U.S. citizens. More than 200 billion U.S. dollars have been invested in the restoration and development of Afghanistan.
According to NATO plans, a considerable part of the foreign military contingent should leave the territory of Afghanistan by today. About 12,000 NATO servicemen, including 10,800 Americans are supposed to remain in Afghanistan in 2015. Their task will be to train local policemen and security agents and help fighting terrorism. The previous agreements on security and the status of NATO forces signed between Afghanistan and the United States give unlimited rights to the foreign military including immunity from crimes and any other legal responsibility. NATO plans to withdraw all its forces from Afghanistan by 2016.
Observers note that despite victorious statements made by the Western military and political leadership, NATO is withdrawing its troops against the background of growing activity of the Taliban movement as well as systemic economic and political crises. Over the past year, the losses of Afghan law enforcers have increased by 6.5% to reach 4, 634 people.
Afghanistan’s state budget fully depends on foreign aid while the country’s leadership had been unable to form a national unity government for three months.
“Of course, many challenges remain, and there is much work still to do. The Afghan security forces will continue to need our help as they develop. And we will continue to provide that help.
Our new mission, "Resolute Support," will bring together around 12,000 men and women from many parts of the world. The 28 NATO Allies will contribute in different ways, joined by 14 partner nations. The United States will be in the lead to train, advise and assist in the south and east of Afghanistan. Germany will be in the lead in the north. Italy in the west. And Turkey in the capital.
"Our mission is based on a request from the Afghan government and the Status of Forces Agreement between NATO and Afghanistan. Moreover, the United Nations Security Council unanimously welcomed the agreement between Afghanistan and NATO to establish the mission and stressed the importance of continued international support for the stability of Afghanistan," Jens Stoltenberg said in his statement.
"We will also contribute to the financing of the Afghan forces," he added.
The Afghan authorities, however, have already started talking that they would be able to become fully self-sufficient only in five years at best. In that case, NATO may extend its new mission, experts said.