NATO Forces in Afghanistan to increase this year: NATO Secretary General

NATO Forces in Afghanistan to increase this year: NATO Secretary General
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BRUSSELS - NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in Brussels on Tuesday, ahead of the NATO defense ministers conference, that Afghanistan has taught the alliance the importance of strengthening local forces to fight terrorism.

“As the coalition shifts focus from combat operations to capacity-building, NATO’s training support will become even more important,” Stoltenberg said.

“Years of experience from Afghanistan have taught us that strengthening local forces is one of our best tools in the fight against terrorism.”

Stoltenberg said the number of NATO forces in Afghanistan will grow this year from 13,000 to 16,000 personnel. “This is a clear sign of our continued commitment to Afghanistan’s security,” he added.

He also said NATO officials expect the majority of members to reach the goal of spending two percent of gross domestic product on defense by 2024.

Figures project that 15 of the 29 NATO members will reach the goal, with all members already increasing defense spending in response to challenges in Europe and elsewhere.

Stoltenberg said the conference starts in Brussels on Wednesday. US Defense Secretary James Mattis has said he will discuss fair burden-sharing at the meeting.

The ministers are preparing for the NATO summit scheduled July at NATO’s new headquarters.

London