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NATO leaders resume key summit; Afghanistan, Iraq on agenda


Warsaw : NATO allies agreed today to maintain a stable military presence in Afghanistan, bolstered by President Barack Obama’s decision to make a smaller cut in US troop levels than he had initially planned.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the allies also made commitments to continue to fund the Afghan security forces through 2020, and are “close to” the needed USD 5 billion per year.

“We are very close and I am certain we will reach that level,” Stoltenberg told reporters following a meeting on Afghanistan on the second day of a NATO summit.

Obama has been urging NATO leaders gathered in Warsaw to expand their support for that war against the Taliban.

Meanwhile, violence in the US led him to cut his Europe trip short so that he can return home tomorrow.

The US has pledged to provide USD 3.5 billion annually to fund Afghan forces, and the government in Kabul is expected to contribute as much as USD 500 million.

Allies would provide the remaining USD 1 billion, and those are the commitments that Stoltenberg said are nearly complete. The funding would maintain a total of 352,000 Afghan Army troops and police officers.

Stoltenberg said it’s too soon to say exactly how many troops allies will agree to keep in Afghanistan under NATO’s Resolute Support training and advisory mission.

But he said he believed that, based on commitments made today, force levels will remain largely stable at about 12,000. Specific numbers will be finalized this fall, he said.

Earlier this week, Obama announced he would keep 8,400 US troops in the country, rather than cut their numbers to 5,500 as he had once planned.

The Warsaw summit, NATO’s first in two years, is considered by many to be the alliance’s most important since the Cold War.

Stoltenberg says NATO, founded in 1949, needs to adapt to confront an array of new threats to its member nations’ security, including cyberattacks and violent extremism sparked by radical Muslim organizations like the Islamic State group.

Yesterday, NATO leaders approved the deployment of four multinational battalions to Poland and the Baltic states to deter Russia, as well as a Romanian-Bulgarian brigade for the Black Sea region.

Germany will lead a multinational battalion in Lithuania, with similar battalions to be led by the United States in Poland, Britain in Estonia and Canada in Latvia.

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