US downplays concerns over IS emergence in Afghanistan
There had been reports that some small elements of Daesh might be emerging in Afghanistan, South and Central Asia, the US ambassador to NATO said on Monday.
Douglas Lute told reporters in Brussels: “This is not yet viewed as a serious challenge to the Afghan authorities, but any place that Daesh raises its flag has international attention.”
In response to a query, he said developing a modern and capable Afghan Air Force (AAF) would take a while. The AAF has an emerging capability, mostly helicopter-based, without enough close air support.
The envoy added the coalition hadtaken certain steps over the years toward providing indirect fire support and armored vehicles with direct fire support. “I think the US admits that and I think certainly the Afghans admit that (delay).”
Lute said supply lines in and out of Afghanistan were currently much less dependent on one route or another because numberof foreign forces had decreased considerably -- to less than one-tenth of NATO’s peak strength.
At peak strength, there were about 140,000 troops in Afghanistan, requiring a great deal of overland transport. But now that number has come down to 14,000.
The ambassador spoke ahead of the meeting in Resolute Support format. As many as 42 countries of the NATO-led coalition joined Foreign Minister Rabbani, who provided an update on political progress after a tough year on the security front.
The participants discussed sustainingthe current NATO mission through 2016. NATO successfully generated the forces it needs to continue that mission in Afghanistan.
A decision might be taken at the Warsaw meeting on sustaining the substantial international funding of the Afghan National Army and police, Lute indicated.
At the Chicago summit in 2012, he recalled, the international fraternity had committed $4 billion annually from 2015 to 2017. “We want to add an additional three years onto that international commitment. So that will be $4 billion for 2018, 2019 and 2020.”
For NATO, the envoy said Afghanistan remainedan unfinished business. “The good news is today we have a much more willing and a much more capable Afghan partner than we had in the past. That’s session number one.”
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