Nato announces its plan for withdrawal

20 November 2010

In November 2010, Nato announced a plan to hand over control of Afghanistan's security to the new Afghan army and police force, allowing the withdrawal of Nato troops by 2014.

Photo: An Afghan National Army soldier on patrol with a US soldier in Kandahar province, August 2011. (AFP/Getty Images)

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Protestors hold up banners as they gather in Trafalgar Square, central London during a Stop The War demonstration on November 20, 2010 against the continued involvement of Britain in the war in Afghanistan (AFP/Getty Images)

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More information about: Nato announces its plan for withdrawal

The plan

On 20 November 2010, during a summit in Lisbon, Nato announced plans to withdraw international forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

The plan, signed by Hamid Karzai, the Afghan President, and Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations Secretary General, endorsed a gradual withdrawal of troops while handing over responsibilities to the Afghan National Army (ANA) and police force.

Nato said that it was fully confident this target could be reached despite potential setbacks but the deadline was 'conditions based' rather than 'calendar based', meaning the deadline could change depending on the security situation.

British Prime Minster David Cameron, meanwhile, who spoke at the close of summit, said that 2015 will be a clear 'endpoint' for British combat operations, regardless of conditions.

Afghan security forces

To ensure Nato's deadline is met, around 2,800 Afghan soldiers are being recruited to the ANA every month, in order to reach an October 2011 target of 171,000. The number of soldiers is then projected to increase until the end of 2014. The United States government has allocated $12.8 billion of funding for the Afghan national security forces in 2012, although it stressed this is not sustainable in the years following.

The ANA and police force will assume duties such as manning checkpoints, providing election security, protecting civilians and fighting insurgents. They will also help to build up the rule of law and tackle corruption and the drugs trade. The handover will be gradually managed over seven districts, the first of which commenced in July 2011. By the end of 2012, the aim is to have withdrawn 33,000 US troops, 1,000 British and 1,000 French from across the country.

Talking to the Taliban

However, some British officials have maintained that the fledgling police force and army alone cannot maintain law and order after 2015, as well as keeping al-Qaeda and the Taliban at bay. After his election in May 2010, David Cameron suggested possible discussions with the Taliban to the US government. In February 2011, the US changed its policy of non-negotiation and is now in exploratory talks with Taliban representatives.

Bin Laden's death

As the discussions continue, US forces have been targeting and killing senior Taliban leaders across Asia and the Middle East. The US argues it is the only way to make the organisation negotiate seriously. General David Petraeus, then Commander of Nato forces, said in March 2011 that over a typical 90-day period 360 insurgent leaders are killed or captured.

Two months later, on 2 May, US special forces finally killed their prime target - Osama Bin Laden. The leader of al-Qaeda and the architect of the 9/11 terrorist attacks was killed in Pakistan almost 10 years after the war in Afghanistan commenced.