BRUSSELS - The US defense secretary said Washington and its partners had made it crystal clear to Kabul that a free, open and fair election was an essential part of any future commitment.
"So I don't think anyone will take their eye off of the election in Afghanistan. The election in Afghanistan is a critical component to the future of that country," Chuck Hagel told reporters in Brussels at the end of NATO/ISAF defense ministers' meeting.
He stressed the Afghans must have the right to choose their leaders and thus an inclusive and transparent election was nonnegotiable. "And we'll do everything we can and play a role as the Afghan government would want us to, but particularly the people of Afghanistan."
As the world grew more complicated and interconnected, a strong, cohesive and capable collective security alliance would be a key component of helping preserve peace, stability and freedom, he said of NATO's relevance.
"Every day, that reality is demonstrated by NATO forces fighting together in Afghanistan. Today's meeting of ISAF ministers was an opportunity to review the significant progress our forces continue to make with our Afghan partners..."
He explained the US remained committed to provide substantial financial support to the Afghan security forces and development assistance to that country after 2014 in line with the Chicago summit and Tokyo conference.
NATO would develop an operational plan and further determine requirements in Afghanistan in the months ahead, with the US staying the largest single contributor to the new mission, he promised.
He appreciated the commitments other nations were making, including the announcement by Germany and Italy, that they would serve as lead nations for the West and the North. Turkey has also indicated they are favorably considering serving as the framework nation in Kabul.
"We will provide more personnel. We are looking at providing new expert professional assistance to the Afghan army in the area of contracting and fuel support, not just soldiers," he said, without indicating post-2014 US troop levels. (Pajhwok)