The Latest: NATO allies may increase troops in Afghanistan


WARSAW, Poland (AP) — The Latest on the NATO summit (all times local):

4:05 p.m.

A senior NATO official says that some allies may increase the number of troops they have in Afghanistan, providing a total to maintain all current missions.

NATO nations are expected to announce Saturday what their troop contributions will be, after the U.S. said it would reduce its forces from about 9,800 to 8,400 by year’s end. The U.S. decision shelves earlier plans to cut troop levels to 5,500.

The official said the total number of allied forces in Afghanistan will remain close to the current level of nearly 13,000. That number will allow allies to keep troops positioned in four regional hubs around the country as well as at headquarters in Kabul, the nation’s capital.

The official wasn’t authorized to discuss the issue publicly so spoke on condition of anonymity.

–By Lolita C. Baldor in Washington.

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3:55 p.m.

NATO leaders have begun a key summit that Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says will order changes in the alliance “so our people are safe, our countries are secure and our values are preserved.”

Stoltenberg said Friday afternoon at the start of the two-day summit in Warsaw that “as challenges we face change and evolve, so does NATO.”

He said the decisions that President Barack Obama and the other NATO heads of state and government will make at Warsaw “will shape NATO for years.”

The summit began with a ceremony honoring NATO troops who have lost their lives serving their nations and the alliance.

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3:50 p.m.

Britain has lifted a ban on women serving in frontline combat roles in the army.

Prime Minister David Cameron announced the decision at a NATO summit in Warsaw.

Cameron says he accepted a recommendation from the head of the army, Gen. Nick Carter, that women should be allowed to serve in ground close-combat roles. He has asked that the decision be implemented “as soon as possible.”

Cameron says “it is vital that our armed forces are world-class and reflect the society we live in.”

Until now, British women have been able to serve as fighter pilots, sailors and submariners, but not in infantry or armored corps units whose primary role is close-quarters combat.

Countries including the U.S., Canada, Australia and Israel already allow women in combat roles.

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3:25 p.m.

Poland’s president has thanked President Barack Obama for seeing the need to boost security in Eastern Europe and deploying troops to the region.

Andrzej Duda spoke alongside Obama after they held over 40 minutes of bilateral talks shortly before the start of a NATO summit in Warsaw on Friday. Among other points, the summit will confirm the deployment of four battalions of troops and equipment on the alliance’s eastern flank, where nations are nervous after Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine.

In addition, the U.S. is deploying a brigade to Poland.

Duda said that “we are grateful for the goodwill, for understanding that security is where the world’s strongest army is, and that army is the U.S. Army.”

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2:45 p.m.

President Barack Obama says the U.S. is sending an additional 1,000 U.S. troops to Poland as part of a NATO effort to reinforce its presence on the alliance’s eastern flank.

The U.S.-led battalion is one of four that NATO will begin rotating through the region. The move is meant to act as a deterrent to Russia.

Obama is touting the decision in remarks to reporters after a meeting with Polish President Andrzej Duda. The U.S. president thanked Poland for its contributions to the campaign against the Islamic State group, including its F-16 aircraft and special forces trainers.

He called Poland “a lynchpin in the defense of NATO’s eastern flank.”

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1:50 p.m.

Leaders of NATO and the European Union nations have signed a “historic deal” that boosts their cooperation in defense against new challenges.

The deal was signed Friday in Warsaw, shortly before a NATO summit opened there to show the Western world’s unity in facing threats from the East and the South. It was signed by NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

Stoltenberg said it was a “historic deal” that gave “new substance, new impetus” to the EU-NATO partnership in fighting hybrid warfare, cyberattacks and containing the massive wave of illegal migrants.

Tusk said the new deal would mend a situation in which it could seem sometimes that NATO, a military alliance, and EU, a political and economic bloc, are “on different planets,” not in the same city. Both have headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, though some nations belong to only one organization.

Hybrid warfare is the use of different tools such as propaganda and psychological campaigns, cyberattacks, and use of political, economic and energy pressure, among others.

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12:55 p.m.

European Council President Donald Tusk says that the “geopolitical consequences” of Britain’s exit from the EU, or Brexit, “may be very serious” but he does not think it will inspire other EU members to follow suit.

Tusk, speaking alongside President Barack Obama and European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker, said it was important to send a message to the world that Brexit, “as sad and meaningful as it is, is just an incident, and not the beginning of a process.”

“To all our opponents, on the inside and out, who are hoping for a sequel to Brexit, I want to say loud and clear: you won’t see on the screen the words: “To be continued.”

On Thursday, Tusk seemed to leave the possibility open for Britain to remain in the EU, when he said on Polish TVN24 that, according to the European Treaty, ” The European Union must wait for the British government to decide whether it wants to leave the union or whether it wants to stay in it.”

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12:35 p.m.

The European Council President Donald Tusk says that unity of the Western world is the key to Europe’s security and well-being.

Tusk spoke alongside President Barack Obama and European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker shortly before the opening of a NATO summit in Warsaw on Friday.

Tusk said: “There is no freedom in Europe without trans-Atlantic solidarity.” That echoed a slogan of Poland’s Solidarity freedom movement in the 1980s that helped peacefully bring down communism in Europe.

Tusk added: “We are taking care of the unity of the Western political community, and that is key.”

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12:10 p.m.

President Barack Obama on Friday reaffirmed his belief that the United States and its European allies will continue to work together on critical global challenges despite the decision by Britain to leave the European Union.

Obama says leaders on both sides of the Atlantic need to address the economic frustrations of their people, who feel they are being left behind by globalization

Standing alongside European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, Obama says governments must move more quickly to deliver economic priorities to their people.

He spoke at the opening of two days of meetings with European leaders at a NATO summit.

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12:05 p.m.

Warsaw appears to be the most highly secured city in the world as the city hosts a NATO summit, an event that comes after a string of recent extremist attacks across the world.

Helicopters are hovering above the National Stadium, where the summit is being held, while 6,000 police officers, backed up by soldiers, gendarmes, firefighters and other security officials, are out on the streets.

President Barack Obama and leaders from the 27 other NATO member states are attending the summit, as well as leaders from the United Nations, European Union and World Bank, among others.

The security efforts are most heavily concentrated at the stadium, which has been encircled by a metal barrier, with security also high around the hotels housing the many VIPs.

Many city streets are also blocked and some city transport routes altered, inconveniencing many city residents.

The airspace over Warsaw is also being monitored closely, with a ban on flights in a 100 kilometer (60 mile) radius around stadium. Violators face the risk of being shot down.

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11:55 a.m.

A spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin says Moscow is willing to cooperate with NATO although it acts toward Russia like an enemy.

Dmitry Peskov made the comments on Friday as the summit of NATO member states opened in Warsaw.

Peskov said Moscow “has always been open for dialogue” with NATO, especially to fight what it sees as a “genuine threat” — terrorism.

Peskov tells reporters: “Russia is not looking (for an enemy) but it actually sees it happening. When NATO soldiers march along our border and NATO jets fly by, it’s not us who is moving closer to the NATO borders.”

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11:50 a.m.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says Russia’s hostile actions in Ukraine have spurred the alliance to raise its defenses on the eastern flank.

Stoltenberg spoke to reporters before the NATO summit opened in Warsaw on Friday to approve, among others, the presence of four battalions in Poland and the Baltic states. These nations feel threatened after Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and continues to back separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Stoltenbeg said: “No one was talking about reinforcing deterrence” before the aggressive action in Crimea.

Stoltenberg says deterrence and defense combined with constructive dialogue are the best approach in ties with Russia. He adds that the Russia-NATO Council will meet next week.

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10:35 a.m.

Polish President Andrzej Duda says that Britain could seek even stronger ties within NATO if it leaves the European Union — but avoids a breakup of the United Kingdom.

Duda was speaking alongside NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg hours before the alliance summit was to open in Warsaw on Friday.

Duda said that Britain’s exit from the EU would do harm to the country if Scotland and Northern Ireland remained in the EU. Both of those regions voted to remain in the EU in the June 23 referendum.

“But if Britain left but remained whole, then, paradoxically, it would seek closer ties with other organizations and its role in NATO would increase,” Duda said.

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10:25 a.m.

Germany’s defense minister says NATO is right to deploy troops on its eastern frontiers to counter what she called a “completely unpredictable and aggressive Russia.”

Ursula von der Leyen says the Baltic states want protection because Russia’s annexation of Crimea shows that Moscow “doesn’t respect borders.”

She told German broadcaster ARD on Friday that NATO needs to maintain a dialogue with Russia from what she called a “position of strength.”

Von der Leyen said “it’s important that NATO deploys with such strength that it’s clear nobody can see an advantage in attacking this military alliance.” She spoke as heads of NATO member states were meeting in Poland, where relations with Russia will be among the top issues.

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10:15 a.m.

President Barack Obama is calling on NATO to stand firm against Russia, terrorism and other challenges even as a key member retrenches from Europe.

In an op-ed published in the Financial Times on Friday, Obama says the U.S. and European nation “must summon the political will, and make concrete commitments” to affirm European cooperation.

Obama’s remarks were published as he opened a two-day visit to Warsaw for a NATO summit.

His first meeting was with European Union leaders Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker to discuss the impact of Britain decision to leave the European Union. Obama, top advisers and the leader posed briefly for photos but made no remarks as they began the meeting Friday morning.

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8:30 a.m.

The NATO summit in Warsaw is being held in a district of Warsaw that Poles view as a symbol of Russian betrayal of their nation.

It was in that district, Praga, which lies on the eastern bank of the Vistula River, that Red Army troops sat for 63 days throughout the 1944 Warsaw Uprising, a revolt against Nazi Germany, giving almost no substantial support to the Poles. The result was the near-total destruction of Warsaw and the death of up to 200,000 civilians.

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