Warsaw, Poland NATO has secured pledges from member nations to keep the “advise and assist” mission going in Afghanistan through 2020, although how the mission will be performed will be re-evaluated next year. “We will sustain the mission beyond 2016,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said at the Warsaw summit Saturday, and make further plans in 2017. “Resolute Support” costs about $5 billion a year, Stoltenberg said, and the US has pledged about $1 billion of that. “We are committed to the long haul,” he added, provided Afghanistan continues to honor its commitments to human rights, the rights of women, and efforts to combat corruption. The 12,000 or so NATO forces are not engaged in combat, and those numbers will remain steady for the time being.
The US has a separate counterterrorism mission in the country, Stoltenberg said. He added that while the Taliban is “still a threat,” some elements of it are “re-branding” themselves as ISIS. The violent situation in Afghanistan is one “we don’t expect … to change soon,” he said. US diplomats, briefing reporters on Friday, said it’s important to keep funding Afghanistan’s efforts to police itself and provide its own security. The Soviets “pulled all their aid” in 1989, two years after withdrawing from the country, leaving the Afghans unable to support their own security apparatus. That in turn led to the Taliban, al Qaeda, and 9/11, he said. “We don’t want to repeat that,” he said. Stoltenberg said he visited Afghanistan recently and was pleased to meet men and women trained to be pilots in the new Afghan air force, saying he believes them to be “very committed” to their mission. Stoltenberg also said NATO will be taking steps to help ensure the safety of aid workers and civilians in Afghanistan, and is working closely with the International Red Cross in this regard. (Read more about NATO’s mission in Afghanistan.)