Syria, Afghanistan On NATO Agenda

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said he expects NATO defense ministers to address the situation in Syria, and troops levels in Afghanistan, when they meet this week in Brussels. “We will make decisions related to both the level of our presence in Afghanistan, the Resolute Support force level, and also the geographical outreach,” Stoltenberg said Wednesday in a pre-ministerial press conference. Tuesday, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said in Spain and again in Italy that the US will continue to have a presence in Afghanistan after 2016, but the composition of the force has not yet been decided. “It’s not a matter of whether, but how many and how,” Carter said. At a troop event in Italy, Carter told a servicemember who was questioning why the US is in Afghanistan, “especially seeing how things ended up turning out in Iraq,” that the situation is not the same. The Afghan president “wants us to be there … and tells his people he wants us to be there,” Carter said. “When we do something, he doesn’t act like we’re foreign invaders.” Carter said the US must “stick with them,” but stressed that the “thing that matters most” is not boots on the ground, but funding for the Afghan security forces. Gen. John Campbell, the top commander of US and allied forces in Afghanistan, on Tuesday told Congress he believes the US must change its current drawdown plan, and that he has provided options to the President.