October 03, 2012
NATO allies agreed on Wednesday to extend Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen’s term by a year to the end of July 2014, keeping him in charge as NATO-led forces wind down their combat role in Afghanistan.
Rasmussen, a 59-year-old former Danish prime minister, will stay in the job until a few months before the end-2014 deadline for NATO to hand over full responsibility for security in the country to Afghans.
“I think the first of August 2014 is an appropriate time to change leadership, so that a new secretary-general can oversee the implementation of the new mission we will establish in Afghanistan from 2015,” Rasmussen told reporters.
The NATO-led force in Afghanistan faces a huge logistical task over the next few years to withdraw foreign soldiers and their equipment.
From 2015, NATO will scale back its role to leading a mission to train and advise Afghan security forces. That mission will be discussed by alliance defence ministers at a meeting in Brussels next week.
U.S. President Barack Obama welcomed the decision to extend Rasmussen’s tenure, White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said.
“The United States commends the secretary-general for his strong leadership of America’s most important security alliance, and we look forward to continuing to work with him and with our NATO allies and partners as we strengthen and revitalise NATO for the 21st century,” he said.
Potential successors have begun to jostle to take over from Rasmussen, with former Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini throwing his hat into the ring.
The contest to succeed Rasmussen after five years in 2014 will coincide with a scramble for top jobs at Brussels’ other main international institution, the European Commission. The current term of the Commission, the EU’s executive, runs until November 2014.