Harper pledges money for Afghanistan as NATO leaders affirm 2014 withdrawal

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has pledged $330 million to Afghanistan after the complete withdrawal of Canadian soldiers from the war-torn country in March 2014. The money, which will be delivered over three years, is meant to help fund the Afghan National Army when it takes over security responsibilities from NATO-led troops, the CBC reports.

Harper made the statement on Monday during the NATO summit in Chicago, where leaders of member countries affirmed their support for a 2014 withdrawal of combat forces from Afghanistan, where they have been fighting since the invasion of the country in 2001. In a collective statement, NATO leaders said transition of authority to the Afghan army is “irreversible” and that the 130,000 NATO troops in the country will be completely withdrawn by the end of 2014.

“The time has come,” Harper said, quoted by the Canadian Press. “All the benchmarks, all the milestones are being met to make this possible.”

Canada’s pledge is part of a NATO-wide effort to fund the Afghan National Army, which will be tasked with creating stability and fending off a potential Taliban resurgence. “We are on the right track to reaching the goal of around $4bn a year for financing of Afghan security forces – it’s a positive story,” said NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, quoted by the BBC.