BRUSSELS — The war in Afghanistan — America’s longest conflict — will grind on for at least another four years as NATO allies are prepared to commit $5 billion through 2020 to train, equip and pay Afghan security forces, according to a senior NATO diplomat.

Last week, President Obama granted U.S. troops in Afghanistan expanded authority to attack Taliban insurgents. The new rules allow U.S. forces to advise regular Afghan combat units and to call in airstrikes. There are about 9,800 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, and Obama has pledged to reduce their number to 5,500 by year’s end.

NATO will continue to deploy troops throughout Afghanistan into 2017, NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg said Wednesday.

“We are now working on the final decisions for our exact force numbers into 2017,” Stoltenberg said.

The security situation in Afghanistan remains “tough,” said the senior diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity because officials were not authorized to speak publicly. Afghan troops still struggle to find competent leaders and supply troops in the field. Taliban insurgents continue to find safe haven in Pakistan and have exploited divisions in the Afghan government, the official said.

The official spoke to a small group of reporters at the meeting of NATO defense ministers here.

As a result of the Taliban’s resilience, NATO will continue its long-standing program to train Afghan forces, fund its military and continue to operate at air and training bases throughout the country beyond 2016, the diplomat said. Bases in the restive south at Kandahar and east in Jalalabad will remain open, the official said… see more

source: usatoday