- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 1, 2015

NATO allies on Tuesday decided to maintain alliance troop levels in Afghanistan at about 12,000 next year and agreed to provide funding for the 350,000 Afghan troops they hope can some day defend the country against Taliban militants on its own.

The 28-member alliance had planned to slash troop levels by the end of this year, but abandoned those plans over doubts about the ability of Afghanistan’s ability to continue to fend off Taliban militants, who briefly took over the northern city of Kunduz in September.

Speaking at a meeting of NATO foreign ministers, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said allied forces’ main objective is to prevent Afghanistan from becoming “a safe haven for international terrorists.”

“That is also in our security interest to make sure that doesn’t happen,” he said, Reuters reported.

Excluding U.S. counter-terrorism forces, NATO will have about 12,000 troops in Afghanistan for most of next year, made up of about 7,000 U.S. forces and 5,000 from the rest of NATO and its partners such as non-NATO member Georgia.

Allies also launched a campaign Tuesday to raise nearly 3 billion euros to help pay for Afghanistan’s state security forces from 2018 onward.

The current Afghan Security forces budget, funded by the U.S. and NATO allies, is agreed upon until 2017, Reuters reported.

NATO aims to announced further funding for 2018-2020 at its next leaders summit in July.

Afghanistan is still one of the poorest countries in the world, so I think this is a good investment we are making,” Mr. Stoltenberg told a news conference.

NATO’s decision comes almost two months after President Obama announced that he would not be able to fulfill his campaign promise to remove all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by 2016 and that the Pentagon would keep at least 5,500 in the country beyond the end of his presidency in 2017.

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