Carter asks NATO allies for flexibility in Afghanistan plans

Carter asks NATO allies for flexibility in Afghanistan plans
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Defense Secretary Ashton Carter on Thursday asked NATO defense ministers for flexibility in their Afghanistan plans, saying that extending the U.S. military mission beyond 2016 is “very much the United States’ position."

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“I have asked all of the NATO partners to remain flexible and to consider the possibility of making adjustments to a plan that is now two-and-a-half years old for the presence in Afghanistan,” he told reporters in Brussels, where he is attending meetings with his NATO counterparts.

“A number of countries today indicated a willingness to change their plans and posture,” Carter said.

Thursday's conversations also touched on both funding and troop levels in Afghanistan beyond 2016, he added.

Right now, plans call for the United States to reduce the 9,800 U.S. service members in Afghanistan by the end of 2016, with a smaller force of about 1,000 troops primarily based at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.

But recent events in the country, including the Taliban seizing control of Kunduz and the United States bombing a hospital in the same city, have the Obama administration reconsidering the withdrawal plans.

Lawmakers have pressed for a decision soon, saying the United States’s NATO allies are looking to America to determine whether to leave their own troops in Afghanistan.