Speaking at the virtually held 2020 Afghanistan Donors’ Conference, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the mission had already significantly ‘adjusted’ the NATO presence in Afghanistan, but the transatlantic alliance will continue to train, advise and assist the Afghan security forces.
The NATO Secretary-General stressed that “at the same time, we are committed to help fund them through 2024, and NATO Allies have already made pledges for next year.”
The 2020 Afghanistan Conference is a ministerial pledging conference, co-hosted by Afghanistan, the government of Finland and the United Nations.
The US Department of Defense has already announced that it would withdraw around 2,500 troops from Afghanistan and Iraq by mid-January, under the leadership of President Donald Trump who is to leave office in January next year. Trump has repeatedly criticized the US involvement abroad in his entire four years in office.
In the speech delivered today, Stoltenberg said, “thanks to the courage of NATO forces, the generosity of many nations and organizations, and the bravery and determination of Afghan men and women, Afghanistan has come a long way, and Afghans do not want to go back to the past.”
He reiterated his stand that “we should not risk losing the gains we have made, and we should not risk Afghanistan becoming once more a platform for international terrorists.”
At a NATO event on November 23, Stoltenberg told the audience, “We will be faced with a difficult choice. Either stay – and pay the price of a continued military engagement. Or leave – and risk that the gains we have made are lost. And that the peace process falters.”
However, the Trump administration has a very clear stand on the issue – to extricate the United States from the “endless wars.” And that means reducing the country’s military involvement in the war-torn countries and pledging to put “only America first”.
The US forces have been in Afghanistan ever since the Bush-led administration launched an international invasion of Afghanistan after the 9/11 terror attacks on the US soil. The invasion was launched to track down and punish Osama bin Laden and his Al-Qaeda terror group that was based there.
Although the mission of killing Bin Laden was achieved, the country’s forces have been caught in a never-ending quagmire with the Taliban gaining ground in most provinces in the country. The analysts fear the all-out withdrawal of the US-led forces will provide a haven for extremists around the world, which is proving to be a difficult decision to make for the country.
The NATO chief has consistently maintained that withdrawing the forces at this juncture could harm the progress made by the forces in the past years. Although, the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been attempting to allow peace talks to happen between the Taliban and the Afghanistan government.
He called on the militant groups to negotiate a ceasefire in the country, which if successful, could aid the United States in the gradual withdrawal of the remaining troops left in the country.