BRUSSELS - NATO foreign ministers will press Afghanistan Tuesday to accept terms for a continued alliance role after withdrawal next year as they chart its future following its biggest military operation yet.
Officials said the focus of a two-day meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels is to build on its active military role since the early 1990s, from the Balkans to Afghanistan and Libya, safeguarding gains in inter-operability and capability at a time when defence budgets are under strain.
The aim is to ensure NATO remains relevant and effective in a changing world where the challenges are as much military as political and economic, threatening to boil over into conflict and social upheaval.
The 28 allies, plus partners and sometimes adversaries such as Russia, will review immediate issues such as how to destroy Syria's chemical weapons arsenal, officials said.
Missile defence, a hugely sensitive issue for Moscow, is also on the agenda on fears of a threat from Iran despite the recent signing of an initial deal on its contested nuclear programme.
Relations with Ukraine and Georgia provide another difficult issue for Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his US counterpart Secretary of State John Kerry as NATO seeks to maintain and boost ties with former Soviet states.
The touchstone topic however is Afghanistan and the post-2014 role US-led forces will play as NATO winds down a war begun in 2001 to oust the Taliban after the 9/11 attacks on the United States.
The current plan is for NATO to put 8,000 to 12,000 troops into a training and assistance mission but only if Kabul signs a Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with Washington which lays down their legal and operational status.