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New NATO chief in Kabul as combat mission wraps up

KABUL: NATO’s new chief Jens Stoltenberg arrived in Kabul Thursday for talks with President Ashraf Ghani as the coalition prepares to end its combat mission in Afghanistan next month after 13 years of fighting the Taliban.

Stoltenberg, a former prime minister of Norway, began his first visit to Afghanistan after becoming NATO secretary general last month.

NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) will be wound up at the end of this year, to be replaced by a training and support mission named “Resolute Support”.

ISAF troop numbers peaked at 130,000 in 2010, but are now below 34,000.

About 12,500 soldiers, most of them from the United States, will remain into 2015 to continue training the Afghan army and police, who will be responsible for thwarting any Taliban resurgence.

“The secretary general will meet with President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah to discuss NATO-Afghanistan cooperation, including the 2015 launch of the Resolute Support Mission,” NATO said in a statement.

“(He) will spend time with NATO and partner troops to thank them for their service during the 13 years of ISAF operations and will pay tribute to the fallen.”-AFP

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