KABUL (Pajhwok): Despite America’s decision to reduce its military presence in Afghanistan, NATO says its mission in the country will continue.
“We will continue to provide support to the Afghan security forces,” Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters after the 66th annual session of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly.
The alliance needed a strong military to effectively fight against international terrorism, as it had been doing in Afghanistan for almost two decades, he believed.
“No Ally wants to stay in Afghanistan for longer than is necessary. But we cannot risk Afghanistan becoming once more a platform for international terrorists to plan and organise attacks on our homelands,” he added.
Stoltenberg explained the western alliance could not afford to let ISIS (Daesh) rebuild in Afghanistan the terror caliphate it lost in Syria and Iraq.
“Therefore, we will address NATO’s future presence in Afghanistan at our next defence ministers’ meeting in February,” the secretary-general said.
He acknowledged they would be faced with a difficult choice — either stay and pay the price of a continued military engagement, or leave and risk losing the gains made over the last 20 years.
He recalled NATO had gone to Afghanistan to prevent it from emerging as a safe haven for international terrorists — a goal that has been achieved.
The NATO chief hastened to ask the question is: Can we leave and still prevent that from happening? That would not be an easy decision, he remarked.
Stoltenberg said his message was that whatever they did next had to be done in a coordinated and orderly manner.
He asked allies and partners to remember that not many years ago they had more than a hundred thousand NATO troops in the combat operation in Afghanistan.
“Now we are less than 11,000 troops in the training and advice mission. So the character and the size of the NATO presence in Afghanistan is totally different from what it was just a few years ago.”
The sooner local capacity was developed to train local forces to build local security institutions, the better it would be, said the alliance head.
Stoltenberg also referred to Afghan women who have attained a much stronger position over the years, including political slots in parliament, media and culture.
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