NATO To Decide Afghanistan Withdrawal in New Year: Stoltenberg

Kabul (BNA) NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Sunday night that “what is clear now is that the US is going to reduce [troop levels in Afghanistan] but they are not going to leave.”

Speaking to Halifax International, Stoltenberg also said that NATO would have to make the decision early next year on whether to stay or to leave Afghanistan.

In the meantime, the US will continue to provide support to the other NATO Allies in Afghanistan, he said.

“We have to remember that more than half of the troops in Afghanistan now are non-US – they are European Allies and also partner nations.

“We are in Afghanistan to make sure that Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for international terrorists, a platform where terrorists can plan, organize, finance, launch terrorist attacks against our countries,” Stoltenberg said.

He also said NATO strongly supports the current peace talks taking place between the government and Taliban and pointed out that part of the agreement between the US and the Taliban in February stated that all foreign troops should be out of Afghanistan by May 1 next year.

“So early next year, we need to make a very hard decision. That’s: whether we leave and risk to lose the gains we have made, but then at least we can be out of Afghanistan; or whether we stay and then continue to be involved in the very challenging and demanding military operation in Afghanistan,” Stoltenberg said.

“My message is that we need to assess whether the conditions for leaving are met, together. We need to make these decisions together. And as we have said many times in NATO: we went into Afghanistan together, we should make decisions on adjustments of a presence there together, and when the time is right we should leave together, but then in a coordinated and orderly way.”

The US is expected to reduce its number of troops from 4,500 to about 2,500 in the coming weeks – while NATO has an estimated 11,000 troops still in Afghanistan.

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