NATO weighs keeping Afghan forces at peak strength longer

BRUSSELS, Feb 21 (Reuters) - NATO officials are strongly considering a proposal to keep Afghan forces at their peak strength of 352,000 until at least 2018, as opposed to current plans to cut the force by a third after 2015, NATO officials said on Thursday.

The proposal, which could bolster confidence in the ability of Afghan forces to fend off the Taliban after NATO wraps up its combat mission next year, was expected to be discussed by defense chiefs gathering this week in Brussels, the NATO officials said, speaking to a small group of reporters on condition of anonymity. (Reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by Vicki Allen)