NATO Plan Tries to Avoid Sweeping Cuts in Afghan Troops
Source: New York Times
BRUSSELS -- NATO defense ministers are seriously considering a new proposal to sustain Afghanistan’s security forces at 352,000 troops through 2018, senior alliance officials said Thursday. The expensive effort is viewed as a way to help guarantee the country’s stability — and, just as much, to illustrate continued foreign support after the NATO allies end their combat mission in Afghanistan next year.
The fiscal package that NATO leaders endorsed last spring would have reduced the Afghan National Security Forces to fewer than 240,000 troops after December 2014, when the NATO mission expires. That reduction was based on planning work indicating that the larger current force level was too expensive for Afghanistan and the allies to keep up, and might not be required. Some specialists even argued that the foreign money pouring into Afghanistan to support so large a force was helping fuel rampant official corruption.
Recruiting, training, equipping and operating Afghanistan’s army and national police forces at their present level will cost about $6.5 billion for the current American fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. Afghanistan pays $500 million of that total, its international partners add $300 million, and the United States provides the remaining $5.7 billion.
Senior NATO officials said Thursday that the allies were examining a new assistance package to Afghanistan that would last at least five years and keep the security forces at the higher troop level.