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NATO hints at indefinite Afghanistan stay

The NATO Secretary General says the US-led military alliance will remain in Afghanistan for as long as it takes to finish off its enemies there.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen made the remarks at the opening of a NATO summit in Portugal’s capital Lisbon.

The US-led military alliance says it is expected to announce an exit strategy from Afghanistan at the summit.

The US-led military alliance had earlier said it would hand over security to Afghan forces by the end of 2014.

US President Barack Obama is scheduled to hold talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai on the sidelines of the summit.

Obama pledged on Friday that American forces would remain in Afghanistan even after other Western countries withdraw their troops from the war-torn country.

The meeting between the two officials comes amid growing friction between the governments in Kabul and Washington.

Karzai has recently expressed harsh criticism over US military policies in his country, calling for a reduction of military operations by the US-led forces that continue to cause the loss of civilian lives in Afghanistan.

He said Afghans are losing patience with the continued US presence that is worsening the war with the Taliban.

The Afghan president specifically called on US-led forces to reduce their visibility and the intensity of their military operations in Afghanistan, in addition to discontinuing their night raids.

“The time has come to reduce military operations,” the Afghan president said in an interview with The Washington Post published last week.

“The time has come to reduce the presence of, you know, boots in Afghanistan… to reduce the intrusiveness into the daily Afghan life,” he added.

His comments drew fierce criticism from NATO and US military officials.

The two officials are expected to discuss foreign troop withdrawal as well as reconciliation talks with the Taliban.

The Western military alliance started the Afghan war nine years ago under the pretext of rooting out Taliban militants. However, NATO has admitted that militants have grown stronger.

The summit comes as hundreds of civilians have lost their lives in US-led airstrikes and ground operations in various parts of Afghanistan over the past few months, with Afghans becoming more and more outraged over the seemingly endless number of deadly assaults.

London-based human right group Amnesty International has recently warned that the US-led forces are violating international laws by killing Afghan civilians without any accountability.

“The current lack of accountability fuels and fosters resentment among Afghans that international forces are above the law and unaccountable for their actions, particularly when it comes to civilian casualties,” Amnesty said in a statement on Thursday.

As casualties have risen in Afghanistan in 2010, public opinion has begun turning against the war in the United States and other countries.

This situation is adding fuel to the fire of anti-US sentiments in Afghanistan and the rest of the Muslim world.

The Lisbon summit will also take a major decision on a missile system and the alliance’s relations with Russia.

There are also plans for a cut in the number of military headquarters in Europe.

Portugal has beefed up security measures ahead of the summit.

The move has drawn condemnation from anti-NATO activists, who were planning protests ahead and during the summit.

Hundreds of angry anti-war protesters and activists from across Europe gathered in the Portuguese capital on Thursday.

They staged rallies and chanted slogans against the US-led military alliance’s persisting policy of advocating war in Afghanistan

Portuguese security forces had refused entry to more than a hundred activists from across Europe ahead of the upcoming NATO summit in Lisbon.

Activist groups say all the people who have been stopped are advocates of nonviolent protests.

They are also calling on the Portuguese government and the European Union to reestablish freedom of expression immediately.

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