NATO head calls on China, Russia to help fund Afghan forces

Thu Apr 19, 2012 4:48pm EDT
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By Sebastian Moffett and Justyna Pawlak

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The head of NATO called on China and Russia on Thursday to help fund Afghan security after 2014, as the alliance tries to rally contributions from a wider range of sources before most foreign combat troops pull out of Afghanistan.

NATO estimates that the annual cost of maintaining Afghan security forces will be some $4 billion, and the United States is hoping for contributions worth 1 billion euros ($1.3 billion) from other NATO allies and partners. [ID:nL2E8FHCG3] But so far only Britain has publicly pledged an actual amount of cash, $110 million a year. [ID:nL6E8FI96J]

"We would welcome financial contributions from Russia, China and other countries to ensure a strong sustainable Afghan security force beyond 2014," Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told a news conference in Brussels, where NATO foreign and defense ministers were meeting to prepare for a summit next month in Chicago.

The United States and NATO, keen to douse fears Afghanistan could face renewed civil war when foreign troops pull out, want to use the summit to demonstrate a long-term commitment to Afghan stability that will endure well after 2014.

China has significant economic stakes in Afghanistan and is also a close ally of neighboring Pakistan, making it potentially a strong partner in helping to foster stability.

With the world's biggest foreign exchange reserves, it is also better placed than many western countries struggling with economic downturn to help pay for stability in Afghanistan.

Analysts have suggested, however, that China would be wary of becoming too sucked in to problems in Afghanistan, and would not want to be seen to taking sides if this were to make it a target for Islamist militants.

"The Chinese officials I have asked about financing Afghan security forces have been skeptical, saying they'd rather provide support on the civilian and economic side," said Andrew Small at The German Marshall Fund of the United States.   Continued...

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen holds a news conference at the end of a NATO Foreign Ministers meeting in Brussels April 19, 2012. REUTERS/Sebastien Pirlet