“We have decided to increase the number of troops … to help the Afghans break the stalemate, to send a message to the Taliban, to the insurgents that they will not win on the battleground,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told a news conference on Tuesday. NATO defense ministers of the 29-member alliance will vote on the proposal Thursday.
If the move is carried out, the number of NATO forces in Afghanistan training local forces to combat the Taliban and the Islamic State group would rise to 16,000.
The NATO move comes after the U.S. government signaled an increase in ground forces in Afghanistan to allegedly combat the Taliban. In September, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the military would send an additional 3,000 troops to Afghanistan. NATO had said it would hold off on any decision on troop numbers until the United States agreed to up its troops.
NATO and other Western forces significantly decreased their Afghanistan troop numbers in 2014. Peace agreements between the Taliban and the Afghani government, brokered by international governments were attempted at that time, but no accord was reached. Experts seems to think any agreed peace is far off.
The United States has already increased its air force presence in Afghanistan since August and is receiving harsh criticism for killing innocent civilians while conducting airstrikes against the Taliban. A Nov. 3 attack on Kunduz is under investigation for likely killing 13 civilians, and 11 civilians were killed in a U.S. air attack over the Logar Province in late August.
Civilian casualties from joint U.S.-Afghan airstrikes increased by 52 percent in the first nine months of 2017 as compared to 2016.