Nato defense ministers meet Tuesday in Brussels to review the alliance’s commitments to Afghanistan amid increasing tension over the threat of “insider” attacks and cuts to defense spending.
Afghan Defense Minister Bismillah Mohammadi is also attending the meeting with the top Nato officials, including US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.
Panetta told reporters Monday that the meeting will look at the progress that has been made since the group met earlier this year for the May summit in Chicago.
“I’ll also reassure allies of our strong commitment to finishing the job in Afghanistan alongside our allies,” he said.
While Nato ministers talk of remaining committed to the war in Afghanistan, there are signs that the Afghan political and military hostilities against the coalition are starting to wear the allied forces.
The top Nato and US commander in Afghanistan Gen. John Allen will present to the ministers Wednesday on the measures the military has taken to reduce insider attacks, the Associated Press reported.
More than 130 Nato-led foreign soldiers in Afghanistan have been killed or injured in attacks by their Afghan counterparts so far this year.
“My goal is to make clear to Nato and to our allies that we are taking all steps necessary to confront this issue and that it should not be allowed to deter us from the plan that Gen. Allen put in place,” AP quoted as Panetta saying.
The ministers will also discuss Kosovo, whose self-proclaimed independence is disputed by neighbouring Serbia, as Nato’s commitment there enters its 13th year.
Nato officials highlighted to AFP that the economic slump in Western economies was having an impact on defence spending. They stressed the need for a common effort to make funds go further and the importance of joining operations and capabilities.
“If we wind down our combined operations, what can we do to maintain our inter-operability (which) is both a military requirement and a political one,” one official said to AFP.
The meeting comes as Afghan President Hamid Karzai complained that the war effort is misdirected with the coalition forces not doing enough to fight terrorism in other countries.
“The US and Nato should go to the places where the roots of the terrorism exist. They are saying one thing but acting contrary to that,” Karzai said Thursday at a press conference in Kabul.
There are around 117,000 international soldiers, mostly Americans, fighting insurgents in Afghanistan. Most troops will leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014 after the Afghan soldiers take full security responsibility of the country.
Nato has committed to a post-2014 mission in Afghanistan which is likely to include continuing training of Afghan forces and some special forces operations.