25th May 2019

Afghanistan surge tops Nato ministers' meeting

  • Some 35,000 extra soldiers are set to be deployed next year in Afghanistan (Photo: Nato/Liepke Plancke/AVDD/RNLAF)

European, American and Canadian foreign ministers are later today (3 December) meeting at Nato headquarters in Brussels to discuss the new strategy for Afghanistan, Nato enlargement and relations with Russia.

US secretary of state Hillary Clinton expects some of her European colleagues to signal willingness to increase their national contribution to the Nato mission in Afghanistan, after President Barack Obama on Tuesday outlined his new strategy for the country.

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He said an additional 30,000 US troops will be deployed early next year, followed by soldiers from other countries contributing to the Nato mission in Afghanistan and set a deadline of one and half years to stabilise the country and then start withdrawing.

In his speech to cadets from the military academy at West Point, Mr Obama spoke of the urgent need to stop a spill-over effect into Pakistan, where the Taliban could acquire and use nuclear weapons.

"I make this decision because I am convinced that our security is at stake in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This is the epicentre of violent extremism practiced by al Qaeda. This is no idle danger, no hypothetical threat," he said, noting that in the past months, extremists had been captured on US soil.

They had been "sent here from the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan to commit new acts of terror," Mr Obama said.

However, few European partners seem ready to commit to new troops, despite a recent diplomatic tour by Nato secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen to most capitals.

The US originally wanted 10,000 extra forces from Nato allies, a figure which has now been halved. On Wednesday, Mr Rasmussen said other Nato countries will provide at least 5,000 extra personnel, and "probably a few thousand on top of that".

Britain, Poland and Slovakia, as well as Nato aspirant Georgia, are said to be considering an increase in troops. But France, Germany and Italy are much more reluctant. Some indications of the commitments countries intend to make are likely to emerge after the ministers' dinner this evening.

Nato enlargement

Another topic on the agenda is Nato enlargement, particularly whether to grant Montenegro the next phase on its accession path – the so-called Membership Action Plan (MAP).

Bosnia and Herzegovina is also hoping to get an action plan but ministers are unlikely to give a green light, following the failed diplomatic attempts by the EU and US to end the political deadlock and press for more reforms.

Georgian and Ukrainian foreign ministers are also meeting with the Nato counterparts on Thursday. Both countries have been promised that they will eventually be members, but have not yet been given a roadmap for entry.

Russia has fiercely opposed their membership and while it has no veto power over Nato decisions, France and Germany are reluctant to upset Moscow.

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov will meet Nato ministers on Friday, during the Nato-Russia council. That same day, the EU's new top diplomat, Catherine Ashton, will use the opportunity to introduce herself to Ms Clinton and Mr Rasmussen.


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