BRUSSELS: As NATO defence ministers began a two-day meeting here on Tuesday, the alliance secretary-general ruled out an immediate decision on the number of troops that would stay in Afghanistan post 2014.

“I wouldn’t expect this meeting to make decisions on the exact number of troops and trainers after 2014,” Anders Fogh Rasmussen told reporters. NATO and ISAF defence ministers would adopt guidelines for the new mission in Afghanistan, he said.

About the shape of the Resolute Support mission, beginning in 2015, he said certain elements were already clear and that it would be a non-combat campaign with a much smaller number of troops and trainers.

“It’s also our intention to ensure a regional footprint — a number of regional training centres. So within this framework our military planners will continue preparations of this mission and then at a later stage we will make decisions on the exact number,” the diplomat explained.

On Wednesday, he said, all 50 members of the ISAF coalition would discuss progress in the war-torn country. At the end of next year, he added, the current mission would be completed.

The new NATO-led mission would train, advise and assist Afghan forces after 2014, Rasmussen explained, expecting the meeting would take an important step forward by endorsing the concept of future operations.

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