US chases NATO cash as Afghan campaign falters

Soldiers escort the coffin of a comrade from Royal Australian Regiment, killed in action during a battle with Taliban extremists in southern Afghanistan, April 27, 2008. (AFP Photo / Department of Defence)
The US is calling on its NATO allies to donate millions of dollars to maintaining Afghan security forces in view of coalition troop withdrawal. Washington is facing dwindling support over the campaign as more nations announce a pull-out of forces.

Representatives from the US and NATO are at a summit in Brussels to finalize a plan for transferring security responsibility into Afghan hands following the scheduled pull-out of coalition forces in 2014.

The two-day meeting will pave the way for a conference on the conflict to be held in Chicago on 21 May during which a bill will be presented to sustain the Afghan police and military after 2014.

The allies are also expected to broach the subject of funding the straggling Afghan security forces following the withdrawal, staving off fears of an outbreak of insurgency in the embattled country.

Washington will reportedly ask its allied nations to front a quarter of the costs of financing the Afghan forces, equating to around $1 billion a year.

``I expect NATO members and [partner countries] to commit to pay a fair share of the sustainment costs after 2014,'' NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Wednesday.

The US is currently expected to supply Afghanistan with $1.3 billion a year drawn from other members of the coalition, but it has consistently fallen short of this quota.

Washington has said Afghan forces will be leading the security effort in the country by the end of 2013, although it will still maintain a significant military presence in the country.

Local security enforcement has been growing and is expected to swell to approximately 352,000 troops by the middle of this year. They are facing an estimated 25,000 Taliban insurgents currently believed to be operating in the country.

Several nations have already announced their early withdrawal from Afghanistan or a scale-down of troops. On Tuesday Australia followed suit, announcing that it would pull out soldiers by the end of 2013.

Relations between Afghan security forces and NATO coalition troops have been put under significant pressure recently. Sunday’s militant attacks on Kabul’s diplomatic area and three eastern cities demonstrated insurgency was still rife in the country despite coalition efforts.

The attacks claimed 50 lives and were the worst since the ouster of the Taliban in 2001.

The Taliban claimed the offensive was retaliation for recent incidents involving US soldiers that caused outcry in Afghanistan, deepening the rift between locals and coalition forces. Among these were the Kandahar massacre in which 17 Afghan civilians were murdered by an American soldier, and the burning of Korans by US troops.

Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the antiwar movement Code Pink, told RT that recent fighting in Afghanistan gives the Obama administration “more justification to say they have to stay.”

“There is always a push in the US, there are elements within the military and within the political parties that would like to see the US and NATO stay beyond the 2014 pullout date,”
she said.

Benjamin added that any worsening in the Afghan campaign could be used as a “hammer” by the Republicans against Obama’s government in the forthcoming elections. For this reason Obama is pushing for more funding to “keep things as quiet as possible” in Afghanistan.