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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 22 July 2018

Nato expected to reaffirm commitment to Afghanistan

UAE likely to attend special meeting as a partner in the military alliance's Resolute Support mission

Nato helicopters land at an Afghan and US Special Forces base in Deh Bala district of Nangarhar province on July 7, 2018. James Mackenzie / Reuters
Nato helicopters land at an Afghan and US Special Forces base in Deh Bala district of Nangarhar province on July 7, 2018. James Mackenzie / Reuters

Nato members are expected to reaffirm their commitment to the mission in Afghanistan at the military alliance's annual summit in Brussels this week, an official has told The National.

They will also be expected to “confirm their commitment to support the financial sustainment of the Afghan security forces beyond 2020, and to reaffirm their support to an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process”, the official said.

The Nato-led Resolute Support mission trains, advises and assists the Afghan security forces and the country’s institutions amid a years-long insurgency by the Taliban and, more recently, ISIS.

The UAE, which has contributed troops to the mission, is expected to attend the high-level meeting, which will be held on the sidelines of the Nato on summit on July 11-12.

“The meeting on Afghanistan will be attended by the leaders of all Nato allies and operational partners contributing troops to our Resolute Support Mission, as well as by representatives from Afghanistan, the UAE, the United Nations, the European Union, and the World Bank,” the Nato official said.

Nato's senior civilian representative in Afghanistan and the commander of the Resolute Support mission are also expected to attend.

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The UAE was the first Arab country to contribute troops to the Nato-led mission in Afghanistan. The Armed Forces have served alongside American Green Berets in the southern province of Helmand.

Last month, Kabul accepted the UAE’s offer to send more troops to train and advise Afghan security forces, bringing an ally from the Muslim world into the battle against militant groups. US officials have emphasised that the mission in Afghanistan includes members from the Middle East, as well as the West.

“This is not just an American mission,” Gen John Nicholson, Nato’s senior commander in Afghanistan, said last month.

He said the inclusion of regional nations such as the UAE had played a role in ramping up diplomacy and weakening the insurgency.

The Resolute Support mission involves about 15,000 troops in Afghanistan, but the size of the UAE presence has not been revealed.

The full strength of the UAE’s contribution could be decided at this week’s summit.

Afghanistan continues to be racked by civil war despite the latest peace hopes heightened by the recent Eid ceasefire. The truce was short-lived and the Taliban resumed operations against Afghan forces after refusing President Ashraf Ghani’s offer of an extended period of quiet.

The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Monday that there was still hope for peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

"Many of the Taliban now see that they can't win on the ground militarily," he said during an unannounced visit to Kabul. But, he added: "Make no mistake, there's still a great deal of work to do."

It was Mr Pompeo's first visit to Afghanistan since he took office in April.

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