NATO Announces Afghanistan Troop Surge, US Decision Pending

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg confirmed the alliance will send more troops to Afghanistan during a defense ministerial meeting in Brussels on June 29, 2017. NATO photo.

NATO on Thursday announced it will increase its troop level in Afghanistan, as the US mulls a surge of its own to help Afghan forces fight a resurgent Taliban and ISIS.

“Afghan security is our security,” said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, speaking Thursday at a NATO Defense Ministerial meeting in Brussels. Stoltenberg said the decision to increase the number of deployed member nation troops came on the advice of the group’s military authorities.

The total number of additional troops is yet to be decided. Stoltenberg said the increase will focus on training the “key enablers” of the Afghan military—building up the special operations forces and helping build up the Afghan Air Force.

“We don’t think the situation in Afghanistan is going to be easy, we don’t think it’s going to be peaceful, … but … we have seen that the Afghans have proven [to be] professional, determined, and committed to fight Taliban and to stabilize their own country,” Stoltenberg said.

Fifteen nations had already pledged to increase their contribution to the Resolute Support mission, and more announcements are expected, Stoltenberg said.

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, speaking immediately after Stoltenberg in Brussels, said about 70 percent of the gaps in the Resolute Support mission will be filled by additional NATO forces, and he is optimistic the rest will be filled quickly. Even with this support, however, Mattis cautioned it is still an open-ended fight in Afghanistan.

“I don’t put timelines on war,” Mattis said.

Gen. Joe Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, arrived in Afghanistan on Monday to assess the situation. Mattis said he will return to Washington after the ministerial to advise the White House on the coming strategy for Afghanistan, which he said will then define his decision for the total number of additional troops that will be deployed.

Air Force Magazine recently returned from Afghanistan. Read our coverage from that trip: The Small Cessna That Carries the Afghan Air Force; Afghanistan’s Close Air Support Workhorse is Growing, But More Progress is Needed; and US Airmen Train Afghans to Defend their Bases.