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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 20 July 2018

Nato officially initiates UAE into Afghan mission

Abu Dhabi officials have not commented on the strength of UAE participation

Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg addresses a press conference on the second day of the alliance's summit in Brussels on July 12, 2018. AFP
Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg addresses a press conference on the second day of the alliance's summit in Brussels on July 12, 2018. AFP

Nato officially initiated the UAE into the alliance’s Resolute Support Mission on Thursday, as member states announced an extension of funding for the Afghan security forces.

Abu Dhabi has long played a role in helping the international mission in Afghanistan, but the alliance solidified UAE's role at the Nato summit in Brussels where allies have been tangling over defence spending.

“We welcome ... the United Arab Emirates who are joining the Resolute Support Mission and we encourage other interested countries to contribute,” a joint statement said.

“This reflects the broad and continuing support by the international community for Afghanistan’s stability.”

Nato confirmed that the UAE attended the high-level meeting on Afghanistan at the July 11-12 summit.

UAE officials have not confirmed the strength of its role in the mission, nor the funding that it is providing.

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.

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In their joint statement, Nato states and non-member nations contributing to the mission said they had reaffirmed their “shared commitment to Afghanistan’s long-term security and stability”.

The alliance said that “Nato allies and operational partners have increased force levels to maximise the ability” for them to assist the Afghan forces.

The Nato-led mission involves training, advising and assisting the Afghan security forces and helping Afghan institutions, as well as funding the Afghan military.

“What we decided today was to continue with both training and funding,” said Jens Stoltenberg, Nato secretary-general. “Our current commitment to funding is to 2020. Now we decided to have funding to 2024.”

He said funding would go to Afghan special operations forces, who have been used effectively in the fight against the Taliban insurgent group, and new aircraft, which have been used to conduct air strikes against its fighters.

“The money and the trainers we provide will be used to strengthen the Afghan forces in many different skills and areas,” he said.

The Taliban attacked an Afghan military outpost near the northern city of Kunduz on Thursday, killing at least 29 soldiers.

The country is in the midst of a years-long insurgency by the Taliban and, more recently, ISIS.

Peace hopes were dashed last month when the Taliban ignored President Ashraf Ghani’s offer to extend to an Eid ceasefire. Taliban fighters entered Afghan cities, posing for photos with soldiers and greeting civilians. But they resumed attacks as soon as the truce concluded.