NATO to fund Afghan forces through 2020: Stoltenberg

WARSAWWARSAW (POLAND): NATO on Saturday decided to sustain its Resolute Support (RS) Mission beyond 2016 in Afghanistan and pledged to continue funding Afghan National Security forces through 2020.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters here that NATO allies had promised the United States they would help fund Afghan security forces to the tune of around $1 billion annually over the next three years.

Speaking following the two-day NATO summit of heads of states, he said one of the great achievements of the meeting was that they now had in place the $1 billion in non-US commitments.

He hinted there were still some pledges due to come in, adding, “We are very close (to the target) and I’m certain that we will reach that level.”

The United States has been keen to secure the target of a billion dollars annually to support more than 350,000 Afghan security forces as it draws down its own military presence in the country.

The Pentagon has budgeted $3.45 billion in annual US funds to pay for the Afghan forces, with the Afghan government providing an additional sum of around $420 million, for a total yearly budget of nearly $5 billion.

The alliance leaders reaffirmed their long-term political partnership and practical cooperation with Afghanistan.

“Together with President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah, we discussed the security situation, the Afghan Government’s reforms and our continued partnership,” Stoltenberg said.

The secretary general said Afghanistan was making progress that must continue especially when it came to human rights, anti-corruption and electoral reforms.

“Working towards reconciliation should also be a priority,” Stoltenberg said, adding the Afghan security forces were now responsible for security across the whole country.

“They are defending the Afghan people with dedication and courage. We continue to train, advise and assist them.”

Stoltenberg confirmed Afghanistan still faced serious instability and violence.  “So our continued political, military and financial engagement is of great importance,” he believed.

He also praised Germany, Italy and Turkey  and all other allies and partners that contributed to the mission.

Additional planning would be conducted in the coming months to define NATO overall presence in 2017, he said. -KP

THE PASHTUN TIMES

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