March 23, 2015 / 8:34 PM / in 3 years

U.S. to fund Afghan forces at peak level through 2017: officials

CAMP DAVID, Md. (Reuters) - The United States will keep funding Afghan security forces at the targeted peak personnel level of 352,000 at least through the 2017 fiscal year, extending a financial commitment that has cost about $4 billion annually, U.S. officials said on Monday.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani talk to reporters before their diplomatic meetings at Camp David, Maryland March 23, 2015. REUTERS/Gary Cameron

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of a news conference at Camp David, the U.S. presidential retreat, where Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has been meeting with senior U.S. officials ahead of talks at the White House on Tuesday.

“It’s clear that the 352,000 surge force that has been in place since at least 2012 is the appropriate level to maintain for now. And then we’re going to work our way to a more sustainable structure over time,” a senior Obama administration official told reporters.

The official acknowledged that, due to heavy attrition, Afghan forces were well below the 352,000 level, possibly around 330,000 forces now. The official said the cost was $4.1 billion for fiscal year 2015, and it would fall to a projected $3.8 billion for fiscal year 2016.

At the news conference on Monday, officials were expected to announce the resumption of regular high-level diplomatic and defense talks between Afghanistan and the United States. They were also expected to tie existing plans for Afghan development funding to incentives.

Reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by Emily Stephenson

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