WARSAW: NATO agreed Saturday to maintain troop numbers in Afghanistan and reiterated a funding pledge for local security forces through 2020 but could not say when its longest military engagement might end.
“There’s no reason to speculate exactly on how long it will continue. What we have seen is we are committed and we are ready to stay,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said of a war which has dragged on since 2001.
Afghan security forces, who took full control of their country’s security in 2015, have struggled to contain a resurgent Taliban, as well as attacks from Al-Qaeda and Islamic State jihadis.
NATO will keep troops in Afghanistan through 2017 under its train and advise Resolute Support Mission, Stoltenberg said.
The 28-nation US-led alliance would look at the situation again next year, Stoltenberg said.
The NATO mission in Afghanistan costs about $5 billion a year (4.5 billion euros), with approximately $3.5 billion coming from the United States.
Stoltenberg said other allies had “nearly” gathered about $1 billion for next year.
In return for its continued support, NATO is demanding reforms of the Afghan security forces, which are grappling with deeply entrenched corruption and human rights issues.
US President Barack Obama on Wednesday announced plans to slow the draw down of US troops from Afghanistan.
Obama had previously vowed to slash troop numbers from the current 9,800 to 5,500 by the end of this year, but on Wednesday said the US would now keep 8,400 US troops in Afghanistan.
Stoltenberg did not provide NATO numbers but said the overall force would be “around the same” as now.
Currently, Resolute Support has about 13,000 troops, most of whom work as trainers for Afghan security forces. -AFP