Afghanistan’s two feuding presidential candidates have written NATO leaders promising to seek a solution to their standoff, which is delaying a security accord that would allow alliance soldiers to stay on as troop trainers after their combat mission ends this year.
An agreement laying out security arrangements after the planned end of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s 13-year Afghan mission at the end of this year has been held up by the dispute over the result of presidential elections in June.
“I call on the two candidates to work together to conclude the necessary security agreements as soon as possible,” NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said at a press conference during a NATO summit in Newport, Wales.
Afghanistan, the intended focus of the talks among leaders of NATO countries, was pushed off the top of the agenda by the inconclusive election and the crisis in Ukraine. Rasmussen said NATO’s ISAF mission in Afghanistan had achieved its “overall goals” and that the country is “no longer a haven for international terrorists.”
Presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah has said he’ll boycott the audit of the election he says involved fraud on behalf of his rival, Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai. President Hamid Karzai has balked repeatedly at signing the accord.
NATO had 41,000 troops in Afghanistan as of yesterday, of which 29,000 are U.S. troops. Britain, Germany and Italy are the only other countries with more than 1,000 soldiers in the country.
After January, the only NATO troops that plan to remain in Afghanistan will be military trainers, Rasmussen said. At the peak in 2011, there were NATO 132,000 troops in Afghanistan.
A total of 3,469 NATO troops died in Afghanistan, according to icasualties.org. Of those, 2,342 were Americans, while Britain lost 453, Canada 158, France 86, Germany 54, Italy 48 and Denmark 43.
The U.S. plans to have about 9,800 troops in the country by early 2015. The number would be reduced by about half by the end of next year and cut again to a small security force for the U.S. embassy in Kabul by the end of 2016.