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(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) today questioned U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on NATO’s continued commitment to operations in Afghanistan at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing.  Following the news last night that France will begin to draw down its troops in the country, Shaheen said she was concerned coalition withdrawals could become precipitous in the wake of President Obama’s announcement of U.S. troop reductions.

As Chair of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on European Affairs, Shaheen is responsible for overseeing U.S. transatlantic policy, including relations with European NATO countries.

“Do you believe our allies and NATO will continue to step up and help us in Afghanistan through 2014, and what assurances do we have that that will happen?”  Shaheen asked Clinton.  “While the President intends to bring home the surge troops, this must not result in an exodus of NATO forces.  NATO’s partnership is critical to our success in Afghanistan, and we must coordinate our troop reductions with them to avoid destabilizing the situation there.”

Shaheen referenced recent comments made by U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in which he criticized NATO’s allies for their shrinking role in the organization’s operations, and Shaheen pressed Clinton to hold NATO accountable to its commitments in Afghanistan.  Shaheen also questioned Clinton on how NATO involvement in Libya will impact its role in Afghanistan and what effect the reduction of U.S. troops will have on that nation’s ability to assume security duties by 2014.

In response, Clinton assured Shaheen that allies would be held to their agreement at the NATO Lisbon summit that operations in Afghanistan required a significant commitment through 2014 and that a planning process was in place within NATO to manage proportionate national drawdowns as part of that agreement.

Shaheen has consistently worked to ensure oversight of U.S. efforts in Afghanistan, calling for the establishment of benchmarks toward the President’s stated goal of a 2014 transition to Afghan leadership and more efficient use of civilian aid in the country.