NATO to keep 12,000 troops in Afghanistan through 2016

NATO to keep 12,000 troops in Afghanistan through 2016
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NATO leaders have agreed to keep 12,000 troops in Afghanistan through 2016 to support the U.S.-led mission there, the alliance announced Tuesday.

“Today, NATO Allies and Resolute Support operational partners have agreed to sustain the Resolute Support presence, including in the regions of Afghanistan, during 2016,” NATO foreign ministers said in a press release. “The mission, including its detailed configuration, will continue to be kept under review and, if necessary, will be adjusted to ensure its effectiveness.”

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The decision comes after President Obama announced in October that the United States would keep 9,800 U.S. troops there for most of 2016 before drawing down to 5,500 the following year.

NATO allies had been expected to follow suit and continue supporting the mission.

Combat operations officially ended in 2014, though U.S. and NATO troops remain in the country to train and advise Afghan military forces.

The announcement on Afghanistan came during a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels. The ministers are also expected to discuss issues facing NATO after Turkey shot down a Russian fighter jet it said violated its airspace, as well as Russia’s incursion into Ukraine.

“The security environment in which we meet today is dark,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Tuesday at a press conference to start the meeting. “Terrorist attacks, violent instability, the breach of international rules. These are serious challenges from many different directions. And NATO is responding.”