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NATO Agrees to Send More Troops to Afghanistan


U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, left, speaks with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg during a meeting of NATO defense ministers at NATO headquarters in Brussels, June 29, 2017.

NATO allies have agreed to send more troops to Afghanistan, and U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the alliance has filled nearly three-fourths of the gaps in requirements for its mission in the war-torn country.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Thursday that 15 nations had already pledged additional contributions to Resolute Support, the NATO mission to Afghanistan, and further announcements from other nations were expected.

Stoltenberg told reporters in Brussels that thousands of troops had been requested to help train and support Afghan security forces, but he did not say how many would deploy.

Later in the day, Mattis said nations were stepping up to fill the requirement gaps needed to carry out the international mission to stabilize Afghanistan.

"We've filled 70 percent of those gaps right now, and I'm very, very optimistic that based on what I heard here, they'll be filling the rest," Mattis said.

Finalizing strategy

He said that he was finalizing his strategy proposal to take to President Donald Trump based on what NATO allies offered in Brussels and what General Joseph Dunford, the top U.S. general, recommends upon his return from Afghanistan.

"That decision will be made, obviously, by our president. It will be informed by what I picked up here by our allies for our military commanders in the field," Mattis said.

Mattis told reporters that the international coalition in Afghanistan "may have pulled our troops out too rapidly."

Former President Barack Obama cut American military support in the country from about 100,000 U.S. troops in May 2011 to fewer than 10,000 American troops over four years.

"Mattis and Trump are just repairing a mistake, in effect, that I think President Barack Obama made. And it is, in a sense, more properly carrying out Obama's own strategy than Obama himself did," Michael O'Hanlon, a senior defense analyst at the Brookings Institution, told VOA.

O'Hanlon added that by restoring just a few thousand more international troops, the coalition could get enough advisers into the field with some of the key Afghan units to "hopefully really stabilize the situation."