NATO Downplays Suggestion Of US Exit From Afghanistan

The bloc is also evaluating its 28 nation peacekeeping force in Kosovo.

NATO’s top military officers have spent a second day in Brussels amid mounting speculation that Washington could drastically cut the number of US troops in Afghanistan.

America currently has 1,400 troops in Afghanistan and some believe that could be cut by half. That would severely deplete NATO's Resolute Support Mission to train and assist Afghan armed forces.

Britain has one thousand personnel in the country and also runs an officer academy.

Earlier this month, chair of the Defence Select Committee, Dr Julian Lewis MP, told Forces News it is "fanciful” to believe British forces could stay in Afghanistan if the US pulls out.

A US withdrawal could weaken the pressure on groups like the Taliban to enter hoped for peace talks.

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An American soldier in Afghanistan (Picture: US Department of Defense).

There are fears that insurgents who already operate in half of Afghan territory could take more ground.

But in Brussels any suggestion of a US withdrawal is played down.

“The Resolute Support Mission remains unchanged,” said the chairman of NATO’s military committee, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach.

“And we have confirmed our commitment to the safety and security of Afghanistan and we've confirmed our commitment to the force generation process by which we create up to 41 allies and partners support the mission.

"So there has been no change and if there is further change that would be a matter for the US authorities.”

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Sir Stuart Peach, Chairman of NATO's Military Committee, (Picture: NATO.)

The other thorny question facing Defence Chiefs is what to do about NATO's Kosovo mission.

KFOR is a 28 nation peacekeeping force that involves the British Armed Forces but Britain’s presence is being reviewed after the tiny Balkan country defied Alliance calls not to form an Army.

NATO sees the move as inflaming already simmering tension between Kosovo and neighbouring Serbia.

The animosity goes back twenty years; then Kosovo Albanians rebelled against Serbian rule and NATO intervened.

Airstrikes eventually evicted Belgrade's troops and led ultimately to Kosovo's independence.

A Serb minority still lives there but now fears what the new Army's creation means for them.

NATO Kosovo Force (KFOR) on patrol
NATO's KFOR on patrol (Picture: US Army).

A wholesale end to KFOR in response looks unlikely but there could be some changes.

“We continue and we’ve made clear publically, as the Secretary General has, that we will re-examine our engagement with the Kosovo Security Force should the mandate evolve," said Air Chief Marshal Peach.

“And that position remains unchanged and in our mission in Kosovo we continue to operate under a United Nations mandate which is not affected by any change in the transition of the Kosovo Security Force.”

The NATO Defence Chiefs can only advise and translate political aspirations into action.

Decisions won't begin to be made until NATO Defence Ministers meet in Brussels in February.