Imran-Qadri circus kept Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif away from an important international event— the NATO summit in Wales. This was the last summit before NATO ends its combat operations in Afghanistan. The event was originally conceived to define NATO’s post-Afghanistan mission and role. However, the gathering had to confront two unexpected and overshadowing issues: Russia’s continued ‘provocations’ and implosive dynamics of Iraq in the form of emergence of Islamic State in Syria and Iraq (ISIS). NATO articulated a commitment to working with others who share its values and resolved to maintain an international order that promotes freedom, democracy and the rule of law.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said, “This is the first time since the end of World War II that one European country has tried to grab another’s territory by force… Europe must not turn away from the rule of law to the rule of strongest.” US President Barrack Obama said, “We will defend our NATO allies.” But Ukraine isn’t part of that alliance, and Obama hasn’t suggested he’ll send American troops to faceoff with Russian forces in the country. “We don’t rule anything out,” said David Cameron, adding that he wants ISIS “squeezed out of existence.” ISIS pamphlets have recently surfaced in Peshawar indicating that trouble may soon reinforce the strength of already present militancy.

Ukraine, however, is working more and more closely with NATO, as evidenced by the Wales summit. Rasmussen said NATOwill give nearly $20 million for Ukraine’s military and focus on bolstering its cyber-defense, logistics and command and control capabilities. “It is definitely a landmark event,” Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said of the “strong, enormous support” that NATO government leaders have afforded Ukraine.

One full session was devoted to Afghanistan and should have been a celebration to mark the end of NATO involvement. The Afghan Presidential elections were to be showcased as a crowning achievement for NATO. However, this waseclipsed, as these elections might become a catalyst for civil war in Afghanistan. To avoid a discussion on Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the US and Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with NATO, neither President Karzai nor either of his likely successors attended the summit. Instead the Defence Minister represented the country.

The Wales Communiqué on Afghanistan paid tribute to Afghan and international personnel who have lost their lives or been injured. It was stated that for over a year, Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) have been in the lead for combat operations throughout the country, gaining the respect and confidence of the Afghan people. When ISAF operations end, the Afghan authorities will assume full responsibility for security—indeed a tall claim.

Post 2014 scope of NATO engagement with Afghanistan will proceed on three parallel yet mutually reinforcing strands of activity:

In the short term, support shall be provided under the ambit of the “Resolute Support Mission”. This will be a non-combat mission to train, advice and assist the ANSF. The mission’s establishment is contingent on the signing of the US-Afghanistan BSA and NATO-Afghanistan SOFA. But “without a signature” on the Status of Forces Agreement, “there can be no mission,” Rasmussen said. The Resolute Support Mission is likely to be supported by a United Nations Security Council Resolution.

In the medium term, NATO/ISAF community shall contribute towards financial sustainment of the ANSF, on the understanding that the Afghan government will make an increasing financial contribution to this endeavour. Wider international community was also requested to remain engaged in the financial sustainment of the ANSF. “Afghanistan should assume, no later than 2024, full financial responsibility for its own security forces”, the communiqué stated.

The concept of “Enduring Partnership” shall govern the long-term assistance. NATO allies remain committed to the NATO-Afghanistan “Enduring Partnership”. Both political and practical elements of this partnership shall be jointly owned and strengthened through regular consultation on issues of strategic concern.

The Summit resolved to continue to support an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and inclusive peace process, as stated at the 2011 Bonn Conference and at the Chicago Summit in 2012. The Summit further resolved to support Afghanistan in making progress towards becoming a stable, sovereign, democratic and united country, where rule of law and good governance prevail and in which human rights, and notably those of children, are fully protected. The particular importance of strengthening efforts to implement the rights of women was emphasised, as well as the inclusion of women fully in Afghanistan’s political, peace and reconciliation processes.

While NATO has helped train a large security force, including troops and police, the Afghans lack critical support systems, such as helicopters, surveillance drones and close air support. However, it is felt that cash-strapped western nations, facing new missions in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, will be hard-pressed to raise the minimum $5-6 billion required each year to sustain ANSF.

A recent Washington Post article “NATO coalition in Afghanistan shrinking” has stated that alongside the exodus of US troops from Afghanistan, soldiers from other countries have been packing up too, leaving behind an ever-shrinking NATO led coalition. As of now 17 countries have just 25 or fewer troops still deployed. The number of non-American troops stands at roughly 14,400 —and is shrinking fast. “There already has been so much blood and treasure invested no one wants to see this turn into what is happening in Iraq right now,” said retired Admiral James Stavridis, who was NATO commander from 2008 to 2013. “I think people realize we need to continue to advice and mentor the security forces for several more years”, he added.

NATO has been expanding eastward over the past decade with the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland being the first of the Eastern Bloc countries to join in 1999. These were followed by Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia in 2004 and Albania and Croatia in 2009. Now President Petro Poroshenko has proposed that Ukrainian parliament could abandon its non-aligned status and join NATO. NATO leaders discussed everything from Afghanistan to the Middle East to Ukraine. The alliance said it would establish a 4000 strong rapid-reaction force with a permanent presence in Eastern Europe. However, there was no indication given that NATO, as a group, will be deploying more ground troops anytime soon to any new conflict.

The writer is a freelance columnist.