BRUSSELS, June 9 (UPI) -- NATO defense ministers have reaffirmed their long-term commitment to Afghanistan, saying it remains NATO's top operational priority.
Ministers were briefed on the operational situation by U.S. Gen. David Petraeus, commander of the International Security Assistance Force, on progress against the insurgency, a NATO release said Thursday.
Ongoing efforts against the insurgents were enabling the transition to Afghan lead to start in seven districts and provinces in July as planned, Petraeus told the ministers.
"Transition is based on conditions, not the calendar," NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said.
"But I am confident that we can complete our handover of security to the Afghans by the end of 2014.
"This does not mean we are heading for the exit. Our commitment to Afghanistan will endure beyond that through our long-term partnership," Rasmussen said.
The defense ministers were meeting for the first time since the successful operation against Osama bin Laden.
"It is now time for the Taliban to make a choice: cut links with al-Qaida and terror networks, renounce violence and respect the democratic Afghan Constitution, including its provisions on human rights," Rasmussen said.