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NATO unable to finalize troop numbers for Afghanistan

Sep. 5, 2014 - 10:17AM   |  
NATO Summit Wales 2014 - Day 1
US President Barack Obama right, walks with NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the NATO Summit on Thursday in Newport, Wales. (Peter Macdiarmid / Getty Images)
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Special Report: NATO Summit

A long-term NATO Readiness Action Plan to deal with global upheaval in areas such as Russia, the Middle East and North Africa will be a key focus of NATO's summit in Wales, an alliance official said.

NEWPORT, WALES — NATO leaders did not agree on the size of a training and assistance force expected to be based in Afghanistan from 2015 to 2017, as the alliance still waits for Kabul to approve an operating arrangement.

Some of the 28 alliance members have not come forward with troop commitments since the Afghan government has not signed a bilateral security agreement, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said.

“We are in the process now of generating our forces for the training mission to be established by [Jan. 1], 2015,” Rasmussen said at a press briefing Thursday during the NATO summit here. “But I’m not able to announce any exact figure at this point also because the political process in Afghanistan has not yet been finalized.”

Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani have both claimed victory in an election to replace Afghan President Hamid Karzai. The election is Afghanistan’s first democratic transfer of power.

Abdullah and Ghani sent a letter to NATO leaders “indicating that they will do all they can to reach a political agreement,” Rasmussen said.

Still, Rasmussen said he is confident the alliance will reach the $4.1 billion goal it set in 2012 for Afghan security force assistance.

The combat mission in Afghanistan is slated to wrap up at then end of this year. Without a bilateral security agreement, NATO forces could not operate in the country.

Afghanistan’s defense minister told US leaders on Wednesday that Kabul’s two presidential candidates continue to support an arrangement to allow NATO forces to remain in the country.

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel met Afghan Defense Minister Bismullah Khan Mohammadi on the sidelines of the NATO summit here. The discussion focused primarily on the election audit process, as well as the security situation in Afghanistan, Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby wrote in an email to reporters.

Mohammadi, in his meeting with Hagel, “indicated solid progress toward the completion of the election audit and spoke positively of the continued negotiations between the two candidates toward forming a unity government,” Kirby wrote.

Karzai has refused to sign the bilateral security agreement.

Afghanistan still needs international support and NATO stands ready to do its part, Rasmussen said.

Experts say NATO will likely agree on 5,000 troops to augment about 10,000 US forces in 2015. ■

Email: mweisgerber@defensenews.com.

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