- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Obama administration is pledging $1 billion per year to support the Afghan National Security Forces from 2018 to 2020, the administration’s point man for the region said Tuesday, despite a mixed record for U.S. and other Western aid in recent years.

The United States will continue to support Afghan forces, Richard Olson, U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, said in remarks at the Atlantic Council.

Mr. Olson confirmed that President Obama has requested $3 billion from Congress and will keep 9,800 troops in Afghanistan through the rest of this year. Through next year, he said, the U.S. will retain 5,500 troops at a number of small bases throughout Afghanistan and NATO is expected to request 9,000 troops.

The troop presence will continue despite Mr. Obama’s long-expressed hopes to draw down U.S. combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan during his presidency.

“The Afghan government cannot sustain the costs of their security forces without continued international assistance,” Mr. Olson said, “and this investment in our own security is one that we must continue to make.”

U.S. spending for Afghanistan reconstruction has been criticized for years. The special inspector general for the Afghanistan reconstruction mission said much of the $113 billion the U.S. has invested to date in developing the Afghan military and economy have been lost to corruption, waste and mismanagement.

At the NATO summit in Warsaw scheduled for July 8-9, Afghanistan is expected to ask the organization’s allies and partners to renew pledges and assistance at roughly their current levels through 2020.

Washington is expected to remain the largest single donor for the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces.

Mr. Olson said the support will help Kabul pursue a peace deal with the Taliban and that the U.S. and Afghanistan realize the investments will expire over time.

The envoy said the continued funding would not include conditions to prevent corruption and that Afghan officials have made progress to control payroll and other spending systems.

A decade ago, Afghanistan’s military forces consisted nearly solely of militias loyal to local warlords. Mr. Olson said Afghan forces today have thousands of police and military officers who are loyal to the nation and serving under leaders who must be approved by the parliament.

Although improvements have been made, Mr. Olson said, security remains a fundamental issue. The Taliban killed 14 Nepalese security guards in a suicide bombing in the Afghan capital of Kabul on Monday.

Just before Mr. Olson spoke Tuesday, Taliban fighters in southern Afghanistan ambushed a series of buses and cars and abducting about 60 people.

• Erica Brosnan can be reached at ebrosnan@washingtontimes.com.

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