NATO leaders meeting in Warsaw will tackle how to pay for Afghan security

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with Afghanistan’s two top political figures on the margins of the NATO Summit in Warsaw Friday as Canadian officials prepare for the renewal of funding for the war-torn country’s security forces.

Alliance leaders set to discuss ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Ukraine

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meets with Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani, left, and Chief Executive of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Abdullah Abdullah between sessions at the NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with Afghanistan's two top political figures on the margins of the NATO Summit in Warsaw Friday as Canadian officials prepare for the renewal of funding for the war-torn country's security forces.

NATO foreign ministers embarked on a process last fall to convince allies to continue to pay the bills for Afghanistan's fledgling army and police force. The ministers, including Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion, approved a plan to raise $4 billion per year from the international community.

Donor countries began paying the bills for Afghanistan's security sector following the 2012 NATO leaders' summit in Chicago.

At the time, the former Conservative government committed to spending $330 million, but the program ends next year.

Trudeau met on Friday with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, and Abdullah Abdullah, the country's chief executive officer.

Officials speaking on background after the meeting made no reference to the funding issue and would only say that the prime minister emphasized "Canada's longstanding and ongoing commitments to help Afghanistan build a sustainable future, a safe and secure and peaceful environment for its citizens, and a country that is well governed and in control of its own destiny."

However, the government signalled that a fund decision is pending.

The ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Ukraine will be front and centre for NATO leaders on Saturday.

Afghan security still tenuous 

Earlier this week, U.S. President Barack Obama slowed the pace of the American troop withdrawal and committed to leaving up to 12,000 soldiers in an advisory and support capacity past the end of his term early next year.

Despite a nearly decade long NATO combat mission — in which 158 Canadian soldiers lost their lives — and allies contributed a massive financial investment towards training local forces, the Taliban and other extremist groups remain a persistent threat.

Afghan troops suffered a series of battlefield defeats last year. One of them saw the northern city of Kunduz fall to insurgents.

The capital of Kabul remains a target for large-scale attacks, including the recent suicide bombing of a bus carrying Nepalese security contractors who guarded the Canadian embassy.

The demanding task to fund Afghan security

U.S. commanders have publicly expressed concern on several occasions that Afghan troops and cops are suffering an unsustainable level of casualties.

Last fall, NATO officials described the effort to secure initial funding as "a demanding ask" for western countries where economies are weak — or face uncertainty.

The turmoil has only grown more acute with the fallout of Britain's planned withdrawal from the European Union.

The argument being advanced in the hallways of the Warsaw summit is that it's cheaper to fund Afghan security than to deploy Western troops.

Canadian officials said Trudeau also raised the governance, electoral reform and possible opportunities for cooperation in order to strengthen respect for human rights in Afghanistan, especially for women and girls.


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