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Despite NATO pledge to increase Afghan support, troop shortfall remains
November 9, 2017 / 12:40 PM / in a month

Despite NATO pledge to increase Afghan support, troop shortfall remains

* U.S. seeking more troops for Afghanistan in 2018

* Germany among nations not willing to send more

By Idrees Ali and Robin Emmott

BRUSSELS, Nov 9 (Reuters) - NATO’s pledge to send more troops to Afghanistan still falls short of commitments, U.S. commanders said on Thursday, concerned that fewer reinforcements could threaten the already precarious security situation in the country.

At a meeting of NATO defence ministers, commanders said that nearly three months after President Donald Trump announced his “South Asia strategy,” the promised troop numbers do expand the NATO training presence but not by as much as hoped.

“We have made it very clear to the allies that we really need their help in filling these billets that we have identified,” said General John Nicholson, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan and head of the NATO training mission.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said this week that NATO allies and the United States would split the burden of providing some 3,000 more troops, an increase that would take NATO’s training mission to about 16,000 troops.

Two diplomats said that at this stage, the United States is likely to provide 2,800 troops, while non-U.S. NATO allies and partners will send an additional 700 troops, potentially making up a 3,500-strong personnel increase.

Germany, one of the main European troop contributors, said it was not increasing its contribution for next year.

Part of the concern, Nicholson said, was that the United States would again be put in a position where it would have to fill the shortfall.

LOW CAPABILITY, HIGH RISK

The security situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated in recent months, 16 years after the United States invaded Afghanistan to topple the Taliban government that gave al Qaeda the sanctuary where it plotted the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

“We fought ... at the lowest year level of capability that we have ever had in the 16 years. So it was the lowest level of capability and the highest level of risk we have faced in this time,” Nicholson said.

Prior to the meeting of NATO ministers, U.S. officials said about 80 percent of the troop commitments had been met by the allies. They declined to say what percentage had been filled after the meetings, but acknowledged that there was still a shortfall.

The number is based on a constantly changing NATO document known as the combined joint statement of requirements, which outlines the troops required to carry out different missions.

“Coming out of today, it won’t be at a 100 percent... but we are still in discussion with more than a few nations that are looking at increasing... so I‘m encouraged,” said Army General Curtis Scaparrotti, who is the top U.S. military official in Europe and also NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander.

According to U.S. estimates, about 43 percent of Afghanistan’s districts are either under Taliban control or being contested. (Additional reporting by Peter Maushagen, Editing by William Maclean)

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