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NATO Chief Says Alliance Close To Decision On Troop Levels In Afghanistan

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg (file photo)
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg (file photo)

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says the Western military alliance is close to making a decision on whether to increase its troop numbers in Afghanistan to help with the battle against Islamist insurgents.

Stoltenberg told the German newspaper Welt am Sonntag in an interview published on April 30 that in view of the "challenging" security situation, NATO could increase the number of personnel in Afghanistan from the current 13,000, although he did not give a specific figure.

Stoltenberg said the alliance would likely make a decision by June on a potential troop increase and on whether to lengthen to time of soldier deployments, which currently are for one year.

NATO troops are in Afghanistan as part of the alliance’s Resolute Support mission to train, assist, and advise local forces.

John Nicholson, the U.S. general who commands NATO forces in Afghanistan, told the U.S. Congress in February that there was a "shortfall of a few thousand" troops needed to meet requirements in the country.

Nicholson also said the current battle, mainly against Taliban forces but also against Islamic State-linked groups, was at a "stalemate."

U.S.-led forces arrived in Afghanistan 16 years ago and drove the Taliban from power.

However, since NATO's combat mission formally ended in 2014, Taliban attacks have intensified, often overwhelming the Afghan military.

Based on reporting by AFP and Welt am Sonntag