NATO expects decision on post-2014 Afghan force by mid-year

"I would expect it [the size of the force[ to be finalized very soon because we also need to start planning"

From Amie Ferris-Rotman, Reuters: NATO expects a decision by the middle of this year on the size of a training force to be kept in Afghanistan once most foreign troops leave in 2014, alliance Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Monday.

The Pentagon has said a NATO-led training force of between 8,000 and 12,000 was under consideration.

Questions remain over how well Afghan security forces being built up by NATO will be able to tackle Islamist Taliban insurgents in the face of intensifying violence and how Western states can justify financial support for a force that has been saddled with accusations of torture by the United Nations.

"It takes some time to stand up a new training mission, of course, and we will need the clarification within the next few months," Rasmussen told Reuters after talks with President Hamid Karzai in the Afghan capital Kabul.

"I would expect it (the size of the force) to be finalized very soon because we also need to start planning," he said. . . .

The United States and its NATO allies are helping increase the size of the Afghan security forces to a targeted 352,000, a number they are fast approaching. Rasmussen said they now provide security for about 87 percent of the population.

NATO and its allies, which fund Afghan security forces, had planned to trim their number to 230,000 after 2015, but Rasmussen said the Western alliance is now considering "keeping the high level a bit longer than expected."   (photo: Omar Sobhani/Reuters)

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