* Hagel to attend his first NATO defence ministers' meeting
* Post-2014 Afghan deployment on the agenda
* Talks on security training for Libya in early stages
By David Alexander
BRUSSELS, June 3 NATO defence ministers
concerned about the growing presence of al Qaeda-linked rebels
in southern Libya will this week discuss the possibility of
training Libyan security forces, U.S. defence officials said on
Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan requested the assistance at
a meeting last week with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh
Rasmussen, who raised the issue with U.S. President Barack Obama
in Washington last Friday.
"That was something the president and the secretary general
talked at length about, about the way the NATO alliance could
perhaps take on a greater role in training for the Libyan
security forces," said a senior U.S. official on Defense
Secretary Chuck Hagel's plane en route to Brussels.
This week's meeting of NATO defence ministers will be
Hagel's first as defense secretary, although prior to becoming
the Pentagon chief he chaired the Atlantic Council, a top
think-tank on issues important to the Western alliance.
The meeting will consider the scope of NATO support and
training of Afghan forces after the full transfer of security
authority from the NATO-led International Security Assistance
Force at the end of 2014. The group will also hold its first
meeting on cybersecurity.
Officials are not expected to decide on the size of the
post-2014 Afghan deployment this week.
U.S. defence officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity,
said not locking in a number now would give NATO a chance to see
how Afghan forces perform this year while they are in the lead
for combat operations, and then adjust the number accordingly.
In Libya, NATO played a critical role in toppling Muammar
Gaddafi two years ago by imposing a no-fly zone and using air
power to try to prevent his forces attacking civilian areas held
But Gaddafi's overthrow left Libya with a security vacuum
that the new administration has found it difficult to fill.
Now, many al Qaeda-linked Islamist militants are believed to
have moved into lawless areas of southern Libya after being
driven out of northern Mali by a French-led offensive.
Neighbouring Niger has said suicide raids that killed 25
people last month at an army base and desert uranium mine run by
France's Areva were launched from Libya, something
Zeidan nevertheless saw fit to ask the alliance for
technical support and training for Libyan security forces.
U.S. defence officials said it made sense to consider using
the expertise that NATO had gained during its involvement in
training Afghan forces.
But they stressed that discussions were in the early stages,
that it was unclear where any training would take place, and
that NATO countries were not yet being asked to make