New Delhi: Entering into its 15 years of turmoil, Afghanistan still needs NATO support to live in a ‘peaceful environment’. Jens Stoltenberg, alliance head of NATO, announced on Wednesday that over 12,000 security troops would stay put in Afghanistan for an extended year till 2016 to eliminate any threat of the country becoming a terrorist safe haven.
The initial plan of the organisation was to vacate Afghanistan by now, but reality seldom matches schedules. Now, NATO is considering to keep troops till next year and extend its funding of the Afghan security forces till 2020.
NATO’s resolute backing assistance and training operation were expected to end this year but Taliban battlefield victories, particularly their recent brief detention of the northern city of Kunduz, stimulated a radical re-think.
Stoltenberg, after a talk with foreign ministers, endorsed the decision and said in an interview with Reuters, “Today, NATO allies and Resolute Support operational partners have agreed to sustain the Resolute Support presence … during 2016.”
The US and NATO forces were to progressively retreat their forces from Afghanistan In 2011 and hand over the undertakings in 2014 to the Afghans. Although, US and NATO troops succeeded in removing themselves from prime focus to a rather supporting role, but they still stayed there in the name of a new mission till 2015 and the timetable has now been stretched further.
The US President Barak Obama had announced from the White House on May 2014, that by the end of 2016, merely a rudimentary force of Americans would persist in Afghanistan. A year and a half later, in October 2015, Obama announced a change in plan that the US would continue with 9,800 US armed forces in the country through “most of 2016” and 5,500 through 2017.
Contrasting the US, NATO never mentioned a time frame to end its “Resolute Support” in the training mission of Afghanistan. The non-combat force comprises of troops from some 40 countries, including NATO members, the US and their partners.
NATO does aim at seeing Afghanistan free of external forces and be self-sufficient to maintain peace in the country not later than 2024 and take “full financial responsibility” for their individual security forces, according to a statement given in 2012 by the forces.