Options being considered on Afghan troop levels: Lute
KABUL (Pajhwok): United States ambassador to NATO Douglas Lute has said Washington is considering a series of options presented by NATO top commander in Kabul about decision-making on troop levels in Afghanistan.
“Those proposals are still under consideration,” he told journalists ahead of the NATO defence ministerial meeting in Brussels. “We don’t expect some sort of announcement tomorrow.”
The defence ministers will assess the "troubling escalation of Russian military activities" in Syria, the alliance's secretary-general said ahead of talks in Brussels.
Jens Stoltenberg said he was concerned about Russia's use of cruise missiles as well as air strikes, and that NATO was ready to defend all allies. Stoltenberg urged Moscow to stop backing Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.
A US-led coalition has been carrying out air strikes against IS in both Syria and Iraq for months. But Western countries support rebels who have been fighting to oust Assad since 2011. The Kremlin's desire appears to be aimed at keeping America on the back foot.
Douglas Lute said they were basically awaiting a report due from John Campbell’s headquarters at the end of the fighting season.”
“I think it actually arrives here near the end of October. That mission review, as it’s called, periodic mission review which is an annual process, will inform NATO decision-making in terms of how we want to posture next year and beyond.”
He said now obviously a key ingredient in NATO’s review would be what the US intended to do. “So we’re hopeful that the situation, the report of the situation on the ground, the periodic mission review, will join a US decision and set NATO up to take its own decision I would say in the coming weeks.”
About a deadly US airstrike on a Doctors without Borders hospital in northern Kunduz province, Ambassador Lute said it was hard for him to expand much beyond what General John Campbell said yesterday in front of the US Senate.
He said the ongoing investigations into the incident by the US, NATO and the Afghan government were in their early days. “This isn’t even yet a week old, so we’ll have to see where that takes us.”
About the MSF calling the airstrike a war crime, Ambassador Lute said he would not rush to any labels in terms of the incident because that would be determined by the investigation.
“I know that the President of the United States, the Secretary of Defense and John Campbell are completely on the same track here in terms of being interested in a comprehensive and transparent investigation.”
“I think MSF will participate. I hope they’ll participate in that investigation and we’ll be able to come to some common ground.”
He said John Campbell made clear yesterday that the evidence pointed to a US strike under US command and control.
“So this is not something that took place under his Resolute Support NATO hat, but rather under his hat as the Commander of US forces. So that somewhat clarifies the investigatory lines because to me that points to the importance of the US investigation as he’s already accepted responsibility in US chains.”
The ambassador said he was not sure they would go in terms of any further investigation. “I suspect that when MSF talks about an independent investigation they may not be talking about any one of the three that are currently underway and we’ll just have to see where that goes. But we are open to working closely with them, with MSF, and trying to get to the bottom of this.”
He said the NATO commander in Afghanistan had made it clear it was an accident. “There’s no way that this was deliberate on behalf of the US parties involved. We obviously don’t target protected sites like hospitals, mosques, schools and so forth.”
“So this was an accident, but it’s an accident for which John Campbell in his US hat yesterday accepted responsibility. He accepted this as a US action.”
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