NATO states ‘no decision’ yet on keeping troops in Afghanistan

NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu said late Sunday that no decision has yet been made on whether a full troops withdrawal will take place by May as per the US-Taliban agreement signed in February last year.

“No decision has been made. NATO defense ministers will address Afghanistan at their meeting on February 17-18,” she said in a statement to Ariana News.

According to her, NATO fully supports the Afghanistan peace process, in order to ensure that Afghanistan is no longer a safe haven for terrorists that would attack our homelands.

“We continue to call on all sides to seize this historic opportunity for peace. The Taliban must respect their commitments to cut ties with terrorist groups, to reduce violence, and to engage in meaningful negotiations.

“Taliban violence continues to undermine the peace process, and it must end,” she said adding that NATO’s mission remains unchanged.

This comes after Reuters reported earlier Sunday that four senior NATO officials told the news agency that international troops plan to stay in Afghanistan beyond the May deadline.

“There will be no full withdrawal by allies by April-end,” one of the officials told Reuters.

“Conditions have not been met,” he said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

“And with the new US administration, there will be tweaks in the policy, the sense of hasty withdrawal which was prevalent will be addressed and we could see a much more calculated exit strategy.”

The former Trump administration signed an agreement with the Taliban early last year calling for the withdrawal of all foreign troops by May in return for the insurgents fulfilling certain security guarantees.

Plans on what will happen after April are now being considered and likely to be a top issue at a key NATO meeting in February, the NATO sources told Reuters.

Peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban began in September in Doha, but violence has remained high.

“No NATO ally wants to stay in Afghanistan longer than necessary, but we have been clear that our presence remains conditions-based,” said NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu.

“Allies continue to assess the overall situation and to consult on the way forward.”

She said about 10,000 troops, including Americans, are in Afghanistan. Those levels are expected to stay roughly the same until after May, but the plan beyond that is not clear, the NATO source said.