NATO members on Monday agreed on a new alliance-led mission in Afghanistan after 2014 that “will focus on training, advising, and assisting Afghan forces” once they have assumed full responsibility for the security of their country and the International Security Assistance Force’s mission has concluded. “Let me be clear: this will not be ISAF under a different name” said NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen in an alliance release on May 21, the second day of NATO’s two-day summit in Chicago. He added, “It will be a new mission, with a new role for NATO.” The Afghan government invited NATO to take on this role, according to the release. Alliance members also decided on Monday that ISAF will hand over the lead for combat operations to Afghan forces in mid 2013. President Obama told reporters in Chicago on Monday that this handover “will mark a major step” toward the goal of “completing the transition to Afghan lead for security by the end of 2014, so that Afghans can take responsibility for their own country and so our troops can come home.” (Summit declaration) (Obama press conference transcript) (See also Obama remarks after ISAF meeting.)
Three B-1B Lancers from the 7th Bomb Wing flew over the Indo-Pacific alongside F-16s from the Japanese Air Self Defense Force recently, as part of a joint large force exercise. The mission began and ended in the continental U.S., as the bombers flew 31 hours and landed Jan. 11.