NATO chief says forces to stay in Afghanistan to finish job

"Defeat is not an option, we will win. The Taliban will never win, nor will they return to power. Never will we allow Al-Qaeda to have refuge Afghanistan," the newspaper ABC quoted Rasmussen as saying in its Spanish translation.

He said NATO's International Security and Assistance Forces (ISAF) were making progress and that Al-Qaeda no longer has a sure refuge in Afghanistan, the newspaper said.

He noted that Al-Qaeda and its ally the Taliban were under pressure especially in their strongholds of Helmund province and Kandahar.

Rasmussen also stressed that Western forces would not withdraw from Afghanistan in 2011, but undertake a gradual process of transferring responsibility for maintaining security to the Afghans as conditions allow.

On his first official visit to Spain since taking over as head of NATO, he was to use the occasion to ask coalition members, especially Spain which has committed around 1,500 troops, to send more forces to help training tasks.

NATO considers the training of the Afghan army and police as a crucial element before the eventual withdrawal of troops.

The US and NATO have deployed 150,000 troops to Afghanistan to combat a violent insurgency which begun just after the 2001 fall of the Taliban regime.

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