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Brussels, 27 Febr 2014 (Reuters/ENNA) -  “We are focused on completing the ISAF mission, but we also need certainty and predictability to launch our new mission to train, advise and assist the Afghan forces after 2014,” NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said after the meeting with the NATO defence ministers.

He said the Afghan forces were creating the conditions to secure the April elections as their primary responsibility. The ISAF mission has so far provided airlift support for transportation of election material to regional hubs and district polling locations.

NATO defence ministers discussed the conditions before the allies could establish the follow-on mission. They noted the signature of the Bilateral Security Agreement between Washington and Kabul was a prerequisite for concluding a Status of Forces Agreement between NATO and Afghanistan, which is currently being negotiated.  

Rasmussen said if the BSA was not signed, there simply could not be a deployment after this year. “These are the hard facts,” he said.

"Today we agreed the need to plan for all possible outcomes including the possibility that we may not be able to deploy to Afghanistan after 2014 due to the persistent delays we have seen," Rasmussen told a news conference.

 “Let me be clear, that is not the outcome we want. It is not the outcome that we think is in the interest of the Afghan people. However, this is what is at stake.”

According to ENNA, the NATO ministers wanted to stress once more that a future deployment in Afghanistan, though very limited and only to train and assist the Afghan Security Forces, is only possible if there is a legal framework, an official invitation of the Afghan government so to say and for planning reasons time is running out. This was a clear message to the successor of President Karzai, the newly elected President, to give priority to a legal agreement with US and NATO.