Friday, January 22, 2016

Afghanistan Mission Has Universal NATO Support, Dunford Says

By Lisa Ferdinando DoD News, Defense Media Activity

PARIS, January 22, 2016 — NATO allies are in full agreement to continue the alliance's commitment to Afghanistan, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here today.

Speaking to reporters in Paris about the NATO chiefs of defense meeting he attended yesterday in Brussels, Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. said the 2015 fighting season in Afghanistan could be characterized as a "draw." But he noted the Afghan forces were operating last year with just a fraction of international troops, compared to previous years.

Dunford added that he does not want 2016 to be a draw for the Afghan forces.

There is still work to be done, the chairman said, and Afghanistan needs the support from the alliance. "We still think that the campaign can be moved in a positive direction," the general told reporters.

Building on Lessons Learned

He said the alliance members agreed to tell their political leaders that by building on lessons learned in 2015, more can be done to better set the Afghans up for success.

Dunford was the commander of the International Security Assistance Force and of U.S. forces in Afghanistan from February 2013 to August 2014. He noted how when he started in that role, more than 120,000 NATO troops, mostly U.S. forces, were in the country. Just under 13,000 NATO troops are in Afghanistan now.

Dunford said areas in Afghanistan that need strengthening include aviation enterprise, special operations, logistics, integrating combined arms, and building capacity in the government’s ministries.

"I think it's not unfair to say there was universal support for addressing that," the chairman said.

Other topics discussed at the NATO conference included threats from Russia and violent extremism, Dunford noted.

The chiefs of defense also were briefed about concerns facing the Mediterranean Dialogue, a bloc of seven non-NATO countries of the Mediterranean region: Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia.

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