What’s Next in Afghanistan

Brussels NATO defense ministers and Operation Resolute Support partner nations agreed to continue support of Afghanistan’s security forces, but the Alliance will not make a decision on its long-term presence in the country until after this year’s “fighting season,” officials declared during the recent ministerial. Six months into ORS, Afghanistan is facing a “challenging time,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters, noting continued attacks in Kabul and on government targets around the country. Afghan forces, for the most part, have dealt with these challenges “effectively,” Stoltenberg said, and the new government is pushing reforms of the security sector. NATO is committed to the train, advise, and assist mission, but the Alliance also has started planning for the next stage of ORS, which will be a primarily a “civilian-led presence,” Stoltenberg added. No final timeline on the duration of ORS was reached during the meetings, he told reporters. NATO ministers will address and “assess the situation after the end of the fighting season this year,” he added. Acting Afghan Defense Minister Masoom Stanekzai, speaking with several reporters following his meeting with NATO officials, said he sees “encouraging messages” from the Alliance that support will continue past 2016, particularly as the country adapts its forces to take on more tasks performed by International Security Assistance Force troops prior to 2015.