You will be redirected to the page you want to view in  seconds.

NATO considers maintaining larger Afghan force

Feb. 21, 2013 - 02:31PM   |   Last Updated: Feb. 21, 2013 - 02:31PM  |  
  • Filed Under

BRUSSELS NATO is strongly considering a proposal to continue funding an Afghan security force of 352,000 troops through 2018, as part of an effort to maintain security and help convince Afghanistan that America and its allies will not abandon it once combat troops leave in 2014, senior alliance officials said Thursday.

Such a change, if NATO endorsed it, could increase the costs to the U.S. and allies by more than $2 billion a year, at a time when most are struggling with budget cuts and fiscal woes. Last May, NATO agreed to underwrite an Afghan force of about 230,000, at a cost of about $4.1 billion a year after 2014. It cost about $6.5 billion this year to fund the current Afghan force of 352,000, and the U.S. is providing about $5.7 billion of that.

Maintaining the larger troop strength could bolster the confidence of the Afghan forces and make it clear that NATO is committed to an enduring relationship with Afghanistan, a senior NATO official said.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the plan publicly.

Asked about the plan, NATO Secretary-General Fogh Rasmussen confirmed to reporters that it was under consideration.

"I feel confident that we will be able to finance Afghan security forces of that size," he said.

He added that the Afghans can't afford a security force of 352,000, so the funding would be the responsibility of the whole international community.

"From the economic point of view, it is actually less expensive to finance Afghan Security Forces than to deploy foreign troops," he said.

NATO defense ministers, including outgoing U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, are meeting here and discussing progress in the Afghan war and the ongoing drawdown of troops. President Barack Obama announced in his State of the Union address that he will withdraw 34,000 American troops from Afghanistan by this time next year. There are about 66,000 there now.

Other NATO nations are also evaluating their commitments to the war, and officials are meeting to encourage allies to participate in the effort to continue to train and advise the Afghan forces after 2014.

According to one of the NATO officials, uncertainty about the future is a critical worry in Afghanistan. Many still believe the U.S. will abandon the country when the combat is over while others believe Taliban assertions that the coalition troops will stay as an occupying force. In the coming months, the official said, it will be important to show the Afghans that NATO allies will continue to support the country after 2014, while also proving that the local forces will be in charge of security for their own nation.

Such intangible issues, the official said, present a greater problem at this point than some of the other more obvious challenges, such as improving the quality of the Afghan forces, battling the Taliban and getting the U.S. troops and equipment out by the end of 2014.

The official said Afghan troops worry that if the size of the force is cut, they will be out of a job after 2014. As a result, they may not concentrate on building better military units and instead focus on how they will care for their families or get money when the tap runs dry.

Associated Press Writer Don Melvin contributed to this report.

Answers by RallyPoint

Join trending discussions in the military's #1 professional community. See what members like yourself have to say from across the DoD.

More In News

Start your day with a roundup of top defense news.

VA Home Loan

Search By:

Product Options:
Zip Code:

News for your in-box

Sign up now for free Military Times E-Reports. Choose from Money and Education. Subscribers: log in for premium e-newsletters.

This Week's Air Force Times

This Week's Air Force Times

CrossFit vs. unit PT
Troops will do the training plans in a $2.5 million study

Subscribe for Print or Digital delivery today!

MilitaryTimes Green Trusted Classifieds Looking to buy, sell and connect on Military Times?
Browse expanded listings across hundreds of military installations.
Faces of valorHonoring those who fought and died in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.
hall of valorThe Hall of Valor is a searchable database of valor award citations collected by Doug Sterner, a Vietnam veteran and Military Times contributing editor, and by Military Times staff.

All you need to know about your military benefits.

Benefits handbook

Guard & Reserve All you need to know about the Guard & Reserve.

guard and reserve handbook