NATO to maintain presence in Afghanistan: Stoltenberg
KABUL (Pajhwok): NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Wednesday allies will maintain troops across Afghanistan and several nations also committed to a troop presence next year in the war-torn country.
"With a regional presence, we will continue to advise, train and assist the Afghan national forces because we are very committed to continuing to support Afghans," Stoltenberg said following a meeting of NATO defense ministers meeting on Afghanistan.
However, the United States told allies it was reexamining plans to cut its troop numbers in Afghanistan next year, Britain said.
President Barack Obama has planned to slash the number of US troops from about 9,800 to 5,500 before he leaves office in 2017, despite calls from former commanders and envoys to halt the drawdown.
"Everyone has an interest that our effort there is sustained," Britain's Defense Secretary Michael Fallon told reporters. "That's why as (US Defense Secretary) Ash Carter told us, the troop numbers are being looked at again ... This is the wrong time to walk away from Afghanistan."
Carter declined to confirm that however, telling a news conference it was not formally a topic of discussion at a NATO ministers' meeting on Wednesday. But he said Obama remained willing to review security in Afghanistan and its impact on force levels.
"The president has indicated consistently ... he is willing to look at the US force presence on the basis of circumstances in Afghanistan and he is expected to do that at the end of the year. He has expressed a willingness to do that but that was not a topic of discussion at today's meeting, per se," Carter said.
Despite military dominance since 2001 and billions of dollars in investment, the United States and its allies face fresh Taliban gains against Afghan security forces.
In recognition of that, NATO agreed on Wednesday to hold onto its broad geographic layout of bases in Afghanistan, a move that could make it easier for the United States to keep more troops there.
Sayed Zafar Hashemi , deputy spokesman to the president, said the Nature of Afghanistan relationship and cooperation with NATO was based on the agreement that Afghanistan signed with the organization.
“We are appreciative of the efforts and commitments made by the NATO members in training, assisting and advising the Afghan Security and Defense Forces,” he said adding moving forward, Afghanistan had developed a five-year plan with its partners to increase support for the ANDSF, while increasing effectiveness and efficiency as well as bringing the needed reforms within the forces as part of the two sides commitment ahead of the Warsaw Summit.
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