KABUL: Afghanistan is ready to take responsibility for its own security even if NATO forces leave the country earlier than planned, President Hamid Karzai said Thursday.
Karzai was speaking at a joint news conference with NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who had earlier confirmed that the alliance's combat mission in Afghanistan would end as scheduled in 2014.
"Afghanistan is ready to expedite the process if necessary," Karzai said. "In case we do it before time we will be ready and happy too," he added.
The US-led NATO force's 11-year war in Afghanistan is increasingly unpopular in member countries and there have been calls in several Western capitals for an early end to the campaign.
Rasmussen said that while combat troops would be withdrawn as scheduled by the end of 2014, NATO had agreed to offer a new mission after that to provide Afghan forces with training, advice and assistance.
"I'm confident that the Afghan security forces will be able to take full responsibility for security by the end of 2014," he said.
"We have already seen them do a great job, and we will continue our training activities and further increase the capability of the Afghan security forces."
"Our goal is that Afghanistan will be able to stand on its own feet, but Afghanistan will not stand alone," Rasmussen said.
NATO has more than 100,000 troops in Afghanistan backing Karzai's government against a persistent insurgency led by Taliban Islamists, and observers predict that the Afghan security forces will be hard pressed to cope alone.(AFP)