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Clinton outlines NATO summit goals while in Va.

Tuesday - 4/3/2012, 10:17pm  ET

By BROCK VERGAKIS
Associated Press.

NORFOLK, Va. - Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton outlined the goals of the upcoming NATO Summit during a speech in Virginia on Tuesday, saying the alliance would focus on defining the next phase of transition in Afghanistan.

Clinton also spoke about NATO's future in an era of fiscal challenges among its member countries and expanding NATO partnerships.

More than 50 heads of state will meet in Chicago on May 20-21 to discuss progress on ending the war in Afghanistan and future strategy. The United States hopes to have an agreement with Afghanistan in place outlining its future role in the country before the summit occurs. While in Chicago, Clinton said NATO would work to develop a milestone in 2013 when NATO forces would move from a predominantly combat role to a supportive role, only participating in combat when necessary.

Clinton said NATO also wants to make it clear to the Afghanistan government, its citizens and insurgents that NATO will not be abandoning the country.

"By the end of 2014, Afghans will be fully responsible. In Chicago, we will discuss the form that NATO's enduring relationship with Afghanistan will then take," Clinton told hundreds of people at a dinner at a Norfolk hotel.

"We anticipate that a small number of forces will remain at the invitation of the Afghan government for the purpose of training, advising and assisting Afghan forces and continuing to pursue counter-terrorism operations," Clinton said.

She added: "But we do not seek permanent American military bases in Afghanistan or a presence that is considered a threat to neighbors which leads to instability that threatens the gains that have been made in Afghanistan."

Clinton made the comments following a visit to NATO's Allied Command Transformation headquarters in Norfolk. That headquarters is focused on training, concept development and research to improve the military effectiveness of the alliance, among other things. NATO officials said it was the first time a U.S. secretary of state had visited the command, which is the only NATO command in North America.

"We've never known such an icon to visit ACT," said Royal Navy Vice Adm. Tony Johnstone-Burt, who is NATO ACT's chief of staff. "We are thrilled that she is coming and taking an interest and showing her commitment to NATO and everything that NATO does by her very presence."

One of NATO ACT's projects has been focusing on "Smart Defense," the idea of pooling limited resources for the greater good of the alliance. Clinton noted that during the Chicago summit that the alliance would use a ground surveillance system that uses drones that most countries could not afford on their own.

Clinton said the system would serve as a hub for joint operations.

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Online: Brock Vergakis can be reached at www.twitter.com/BrockVergakis


(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)