Ministers mull Nato future in Afghanistan

2015-12-01 18:28
Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.  (Mindaugas Kulbis, AP,File)

Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. (Mindaugas Kulbis, AP,File)

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Brussels - Nato foreign ministers were discussing on Tuesday what role their military alliance should play in Afghanistan next year, with plans for a troop drawdown on the back burner.

Afghan government forces officially took over full responsibility for their country's security on January 1, but have struggled with attacks by Taliban insurgents. In September, the rebels managed to temporarily overrun the northern provincial capital of Kunduz.

"This has been a year of challenges, but it has also been a year of progress and we remain resolved to support Afghanistan moving forward," Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said at the start of talks in Brussels between the ministers, their Afghan counterpart and partner nations.

Several Nato member countries have shelved plans to whittle down their presence in Afghanistan in 2016, including the United States and Germany.

"Germany will continue to be involved, also to ensure that we do not experience setbacks," German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in Brussels.

The deteriorating security situation has further raised questions about whether Nato can proceed with plans to eventually trade in its current Resolute Support training and advisory mission for a smaller, civilian-led presence in Afghanistan.

Resolute Support is a non-combat operation that involves about 13 000 troops. It had initially been expected to wrap up at the end of 2016.

The foreign ministers are expected on Tuesday to keep Resolute Support largely unchanged next year.

Nato is aiming to "keep approximately the same force level, around 12 000 troops" in Afghanistan, nearly half of them US troops, Stoltenberg told journalists on Monday.

Nato has been considering boosting its support for Afghan security forces, for instance by sharing intelligence or deploying trainers more in the country's conflict areas, sources have told dpa.

The Nato ministers will also start discussing how to finance Afghan security forces from 2018 during their talks Tuesday.

Douglas Lute, the US ambassador to Nato, said Washington is hoping Afghanistan will continue to be provided with $4bn a year for its security forces through 2020.

"The bottom line is, I think, that for Nato, Afghanistan remains unfinished business and despite ... competing challenges closer to home, we have to follow through on those commitments," the ambassador said. "It's going to require a long-term effort."

Stoltenberg expressed hope that a final decision on the financing issue will be taken at Nato's next summit in Warsaw July 8-9.

Read more on:    taliban  |  nato  |  afghanistan

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