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No Final ‘Decision’ on Afghanistan Pullout: NATO

Afghanistan welcomed NATO’s decision to continue their full support for the Afghan security forces and the Afghanistan Peace Process to find a negotiated comprehensive political settlement to put an end to violence and suffering of the Afghan people

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KABUL: Afghanistan has welcomed NATO’s decision to continue their full support for the Afghan security forces and the Afghan peace process.

“I welcome NATO’s Defense Ministers decision to continue their full support for the Afghan security forces, the Afghanistan Peace Process, resolving the current issue through a negotiated comprehensive political settlement and putting an end to violence and suffering of the Afghan people,” Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, the Chairman High Council for National Reconciliation.

He also welcomed NATO’s conditions-based approach to Afghanistan, and status of troops. “The people of Afghanistan welcome the return of foreign forces, but taking into account the current challenges, the troop withdrawal should remain condition-based, and take place after a political settlement.”

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg briefing media at end of the two NATO defense ministers meetings in Brussels said that the military alliance will only leave Afghanistan when security conditions on the ground allow it.

Stoltenberg said that at this stage, the alliance has not made a final decision about a troop presence in Afghanistan.

“At this stage, we have made no final decision on the future of our presence, but, as the May 1 deadline is approaching, NATO Allies will continue to closely consult and coordinate in the coming weeks,” said Stoltenberg at a press conference in Brussels.

“We remain committed to our Resolute Support mission, with training and funding for the brave Afghan security forces,” he said.

“Defence Ministers had a thorough discussion on the situation in Afghanistan. We are faced with many dilemmas and there are no easy options,” he said.

On the importance of peace in Afghanistan, he said: “NATO strongly supports the peace process, and as part of it, we have significantly reduced the number of our troops. The peace process is the best chance to end years of suffering and violence. And bring lasting peace. It is important for the Afghan people, for the security of the region and for our own security.”

“The Taliban must negotiate in good faith, reduce the high level of violence and live up to their commitment to stop cooperating with international terrorist groups,” he said.

The NATO chief said that the presence of alliance troops in Afghanistan was conditions-based, stating that the Taliban needs to abide by their commitments within the framework of the Doha agreement from last February.

Stoltenberg said that US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin assured allies that the US will work together with NATO on Afghanistan.

The NATO head said that NATO allies will make a final decision based on consultations and assessments that NATO allies make together.

He said that now the focus is to have successful peace talks and to ensure that Afghanistan does not become a safe haven for international terrorism.

On reports about the Taliban’s preparation for the spring offensive, the NATO chief says that NATO’s presence in Afghanistan is conditions-based. He said that NATO continues to monitor the situation. He says that a spring offensive will only damage the prospects for peace.

Stoltenberg said that NATO allies will make a final decision based on consultations and assessments that NATO allies make together.

Stoltenberg said that NATO’s goal is to ensure that Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for terrorists that would attack “our homelands.”

“So Allies will continue to assess together the conditions on the ground. As we do, the protection of our troops remains paramount, and we will take all necessary measures to keep them safe,” added Stoltenberg.

This is as the Taliban previously warned of severe consequences if foreign troops did not leave Afghanistan by May. Based on Taliban-US agreement, foreign troops must leave Afghanistan but since US is reviewing the deal, it would probably not happened.

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin has said the United States would not undertake a hasty or disorderly withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Addressing the second and final day of the NATO Defense Ministerial, Austin thanked Allies for their continued commitment to the Resolute Support Mission and reiterated that the US remains committed to a diplomatic effort to end the war.

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