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Despite NATO pledge to increase Afghan support, troop shortfall remains

Despite NATO pledge to increase Afghan support, troop shortfall remains
From Reuters - November 9, 2017

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - NATOs 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 defense 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 NATOs 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, saidat this point it was not increasing its contribution for next year.

German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen defended the decision not to sharply increase non-U.S. NATO troop numbers.

The commitments received so far are sufficient. We will not reach the total troop level, but to a high degree, Von der Leyen told reporters.

European NATOs focus has partly shifted to deterring Russia in Poland, the Baltics and the Black Sea, diplomats said, after Moscows seizure of Crimea in 2014 helped take East-West ties to post-Cold War lows.

Nicholson said he was concerned that the United States would again be put in a position where it would have to fill the shortfall.

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