June 30th, 2017 10:36 EST
NATO Pledges Continued Support for Afghanistan Mission
NATO will continue to support Afghanistan through thick and thin, the alliances secretary general said in Brussels today. NATO seal and flag.
Jens Stoltenberg told reporters at the conclusion of the Defense Ministerial that the alliance will continue its support to Afghanistan through 2017 and beyond, and that more troops will be sent to the nation for the Resolute Support Mission.
The effort in Afghanistan is international with 39 nations working together to make the nation more secure, Stoltenberg said. "Over the years, we have achieved hard-won gains in Afghanistan and many of our women and men have paid the ultimate price," he said. "We will always honor their service and sacrifice."
It is important to not lose sight of what has been accomplished in the nation, he said.
Afghan Forces `Demonstrate Bravery, Resilience`
"Today, Afghan security forces are fully responsible for security across the country," the secretary general said. "Every day they demonstrate bravery and resilience, leading the fight to defeat terrorists and protect their people."
He reminded reporters that NATO once had a large-scale combat force in the country and now has around 13,000. That number, however, is too low, he added, and the alliance will send a few thousand more troops for the Resolute Support Mission.
"At a force generation conference earlier this month, 15 nations pledged additional contributions to Resolute Support," he said. "We also got some more announcements and pledges during the meeting today."
This builds on the commitment to continue to fund the Afghan security forces through 2020. "But NATO alone cannot bring lasting security to Afghanistan," Stoltenberg said. "We count on our Afghan partners to make good on their commitments, including: key reforms on good governance and the rule of law, fighting corruption and protecting the rights of women and girls."
Earlier today, the secretary general discussed burden-sharing. At both the Wales and Warsaw NATO summits, the allies agreed to spend 2 percent of gross domestic product on security. While it takes some time to reverse a budget trend, the alliance is seeing some results.
"I`m glad to say that we expect this will be the third consecutive year of accelerating defense spending increases across European allies and Canada, with a 4.3 percent real increase in defense spending," he said.
This means European allies and Canada spent almost $46 billion more on defense.
"This is a significant increase which means that we are moving in the right direction when it comes to burden-sharing and defense spending," Stoltenberg said. (Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDoDNews)
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