NATO may boost its presence & prolong ‘training’ mission in Afghanistan – Stoltenberg

NATO may boost its presence & prolong ‘training’ mission in Afghanistan – Stoltenberg
NATO is considering sending additional military personnel to Afghanistan and increasing the timeframe of the deployment in the view of the “challenging security situation,” the alliance’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, told the German Die Welt daily.

The additional troops are expected to join the NATO Resolute Support mission which it says is aimed at training, assisting and advising Afghan security forces in their fight against violent insurgents and various extremist groups.

The ‘training’ mission, after the majority of ‘combat’ troops were withdrawn, currently involves 13,000 servicemen, with around 8,400 of them being from the US.

The decision concerning further troops deployment is to be taken by June, Stoltenberg told Die Welt. 

The military alliance is also expected to approve a new prolonged deployment procedure, he said. Instead of extending the mission every year, NATO would prolong it for a “longer term” to be able to develop long-term strategies.

NATO would like to take more initiative and responsibility in the fight against global terrorism, Stoltenberg said, noting however, that operations aimed at training local troops and security forces “are the best way to fight terrorism.”

“We already do it to some extent, for example, in Afghanistan and Iraq but we have a potential to do even more,” he said. “In such a way, we make them capable of stabilizing their land on their own. It is better than sending NATO troops that have then to defend those countries.”

NATO’s new strategy announcement comes as the situation in Afghanistan becomes increasingly tense.

US-led forces invaded Afghanistan to oust the Taliban from power more than 15 years ago, following the attacks of September 11, 2001. However, the extremist group, which advocates hardcore Islamist rule, is still active and continues to attack Afghan military targets and carry out terrorist attacks.

US Army General John Nicholson recently described the situation in Afghanistan as a “stalemate” as he briefed the US Senate Armed Services Committee.

Lately, the US has concentrated on fighting Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorists in eastern Afghanistan while also supporting Afghan National Security Forces against the Taliban.

In an unprecedented show of force on April 13, the US dropped an 11-ton “mother of all bombs” in the eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan, killing 94 IS terrorists, according to the latest estimates.

Meanwhile last week, some 140 Afghan soldiers were killed and dozens injured in a Taliban attack on a military base in northern Afghanistan, according to Afghan officials. Taliban fighters also overran the Sangin district of Helmand province in late March.

On Saturday, it was reported that the US Marines returned to Afghanistan’s southernmost Helmand province amid the deteriorating security situation in the area. The arrival of the Marines comes a day after the Taliban announced this year’s spring offensive, pledging to keep the pressure on Afghan’s security forces.