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NATO extends Afghanistan training mission

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Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (R) speak with  Greek Prime minister Alexis Tsipras prior to their meeting in Athens on April 22, 2016.  / AFP PHOTO / LOUISA GOULIAMAKI

Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (R) speak with Greek Prime minister Alexis Tsipras prior to their meeting in Athens on April 22, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / LOUISA GOULIAMAKI

NATO foreign ministers agreed Friday to extend the alliance’s key training and support mission in Afghanistan beyond this year as the country continues to face “serious security challenges.”

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said Afghan forces were doing well against Taliban rebels, benefitting from the current military training programmes launched in 2015 after the alliance ended its direct combat role.

“But Afghanistan continues to face serious security challenges. That is why today, ministers agreed to sustain the Resolute Support mission beyond 2016,” Stoltenberg said, without saying how much longer it would continue.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday that Washington had 9,800 soldiers in Afghanistan, accounting for the bulk of foreign troops in the Resolute Support Mission, and the number would fall to 5,500 in 2017.

NATO members are separately reviewing financial aid to help the Afghan armed forces in a programme which was originally planned to run to 2017 but was later extended to 2020.

Stoltenberg said total contributions to the Afghan National Army Trust Fund now totalled $1.4 billion.

US forces ousted the Taliban from Kabul in 2001 after the 9/11 terror attacks and NATO then took over military leadership until 2014, when it judged Afghan security forces to be up to the job.

After its longest military campaign ever, NATO has built up the Afghan army to some 350,000 troops but the Taliban remain a major threat, and some analysts believe the government would struggle badly or even fall without foreign support.



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