Global Insights: NATO Clarifies Afghan Transition Plan

Global Insights: NATO Clarifies Afghan Transition Plan

At last month’s NATO defense ministerial meeting, one of the main topics of discussion concerned how many coalition forces will remain in Afghanistan beyond 2014, as well as what their mission will be and how rapidly to withdraw forces that will be departing. After almost 12 years of U.S. and coalition combat operations, the durability of recent gains remains under question as NATO withdraws its forces and reduces its other military support to the Afghan government, making it essential that the alliance plan carefully for drawing down its operations in the country.

The numbers under consideration at February’s meeting assumed a follow-on force ranging from 8,000 to 12,000 troops, with most coming from NATO countries as well as from a few NATO partners such as Australia. The United States might contribute between one-half and two-thirds of this total. NATO’s member states will now use this figure, which represents the middle range of three figures the Pentagon presented to the alliance last November, as a planning guidepost for pacing their own 2013-2014 reductions.

There has been no serious discussion of a post-2014 “zero option” in terms of coalition troops. Still, keeping NATO military forces in Afghanistan beyond 2014 depends on NATO countries and the Afghan government negotiating various Status of Forces Agreements (SOFAs) that would define the legal rights and responsibilities of the foreign forces.

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