Nato soldiers in afghanistan: mission extended

The NATO military alliance will remain in Afghanistan next year with 12,000 troops. It will also continue reconnaissance flights against IS.

"Afghanistan does not stand alone": NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg Photo: dpa

Nato countries will continue to stand by Afghanistan with a massive troop presence in the coming year. NATO heads of state and government decided on Saturday at their summit in Warsaw to continue the training and support mission "Resolute Support," as Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said. The deployment strength is to remain unchanged at 12,000 troops. In its dealings with Russia, the alliance is relying on a dual strategy of deterrence and willingness to engage in dialogue.

Together with the rest of the international community, NATO will ensure that Afghanistan "never again becomes a haven for terrorists who can threaten our security," the summit declared.

To that end, NATO partners also want to continue to play a major role in funding the Afghan security forces until the end of 2020, which will require five billion dollars (4.5 billion euros) a year. Around $3.5 billion will come from the U.S., while the other allies have now pledged to contribute around $1 billion. The Afghan government itself will cover the rest.

"The message is clear: Afghanistan does not stand alone, and we are committed for the long term," Stoltenberg said. He did not give an end date for the military mission. NATO will reassess the situation next year and decide then, he said.

The international combat mission under NATO leadership, which began in 2001 after the terrorist attacks in the USA, ended at the end of 2014. The successor mission, Resolute Support, is primarily tasked with advising and training Afghan security forces. The focus is now also on building up the country’s own air force. The mandate ceiling for Bundeswehr participation is currently 980 soldiers.

Starting at noon, the summit discussed greater support for NATO in the fight against the jihadist militia Islamic State (IS). The heads of state and government decided to provide NATO Awacs reconnaissance aircraft. They are to gather information on the situation in Syria and Iraq from the airspace over Turkey and the Mediterranean and pass it on to the international anti-IS coalition.

In addition, NATO also wants to train Iraqi soldiers in Iraq itself in the future to enable Baghdad to fight IS more effectively. Until now, the alliance has done this in the relatively safe neighboring country of Jordan.

Dialogue with Russia sought

A meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission is on the agenda at the end of the summit. Afterwards, a six-party meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) on the Ukraine conflict is planned. In addition to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, U.S. President Barack Obama, France’s head of state Francois Hollande, Italy’s head of government Matteo Renzi and British Prime Minister David Cameron will take part.

On Friday evening, the NATO heads of state and government had discussed future dealings with Russia at a large-scale dinner. Secretary General Stoltenberg said Saturday that the message of the deliberations was "that the alliance is united and stands together" and is seeking dialogue with Russia in addition to strengthening its defense capability and deterrence.

On Friday, the summit had decided to further strengthen NATO’s presence in Eastern Europe in response to Russia’s actions in the Ukraine conflict. Starting in 2017, a multinational battalion is to be stationed in each of the three Baltic states and Poland.

The Bundeswehr will take the lead in Lithuania. Norway, the Franco-German brigade and the Benelux countries will also be involved. Belgium’s Foreign Minister Didier Reynders announced the deployment of 150 soldiers for his country.

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite welcomed the decision. The stationing of up to 1000 NATO soldiers in her country was sufficient to deter Russia, she said. She said she, too, was therefore now open to a NATO dialogue with Moscow.