The new head of NATO made an unannounced visit to Kabul on Thursday, telling Afghans that the Western military alliance would continue supporting the country after foreign combat troops withdraw at the end of the year.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the end of the combat mission means "starting a new chapter in which the future of Afghanistan is in the hands of the Afghan people."
"Next year, we will open a new chapter, the future Afghanistan would be in Afghan hands. But our support will continue," said Stoltenberg. "We will start a new mission to train, advise and assist Afghan forces. We will also continue our financial support."
Stoltenberg's first visit as NATO chief includes talks with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah, and senior leadership of the International Security Assistance Force.
President Ghani said he looks forward to working with the alliance in the future.
"Our desire is for peace and for sustainable peace so that peace will be enduring. We see ourselves as the roundabout of Asia," Ghani said. "We are a people determined in a government to make sure that forces that are otherwise good, forces that are otherwise seen as contention, meet on a platform of cooperation. So, I see the opportunities. We will welcome the challenges no matter what they are."
NATO and the United States are pulling out troops by December 31, but leaving a residual force of 12,000, in part to provide training and backup for Afghanistan's security forces.