NATO has said it is strongly considering a proposal to extend funding for a security force of Afghan troops through 2018. The proposal comes amid speculation that the US will reduce support for post-2014 operations.
NATO is considering plans to continue supporting about 350,000 Afghan troops in the country until 2018, its Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Thursday.
"I feel confident that we will be able to finance Afghan security forces of that size," Rasmussen said after meeting the alliance's defense ministers in Brussels.
"From a political point of view, it's better to give the defense of Afghanistan an Afghan face, and from an economic point of view it is actually less expensive to finance Afghan security forces than to deploy foreign troops," he added.
The move could increase the costs to the US and allies by more than $2 billion (roughly 1.5 billion euros) a year.
Last May, NATO agreed to endorse an Afghan force of about 230,000, for about $4.1 billion a year after 2014. Currently, it costs about $6.5 billion to fund an Afghan force of 352,000, and the US is providing about $5.7 billion of that.
Rasmussen said several proposals were being considered, and no decision had been made.
Post operation speculation
The proposal comes amid speculation that US contributions to the post-2014 “Resolute Support” operation could be lower than previously expected. US President Barack Obama announced in his February 12 State of the Union address that he will withdraw 34,000 American troops from Afghanistan by next year out of 66,000 that are stationed there now.
However, despite Washington's commitments, Rasmussen said there was still some time to plan the new mission.
"I'd expect final decisions on the size and scope of the future NATO-led training mission to be taken in the coming months," he said.
NATO's defense ministers will continue talks in Brussels on Friday.
hc/ccp (AP, dpa)