NATO chief warns of risks involved in withdrawing troops

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday that the alliance’s presence in Afghanistan is a decision that should be mutual but one that carries risks.

Speaking at a joint news conference with Belgium’s Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, Stoltenberg said: “If we decide to leave, we risk to jeopardize the peace process, we risk to lose the gains that were made in the fight against international terrorism over the last years, and we risk Afghanistan becoming a safe haven for international terrorists.”

He also said if NATO decides to stay, there will be the risk of increased violence against foreign troops in the country.

“So my message to all NATO allies is that whatever we decide we need to do together,” he said. “We went into Afghanistan together. We should adjust our presence there together. And when the time is right we should leave together.”

Stoltenberg also called on the Taliban to stick to their commitments, including “breaking all ties with international terrorists, including al-Qaeda,” and “reducing violence.”

Former US president Donald Trump had sharply reduced the number of American troops in Afghanistan and planned for a complete withdrawal by end of April. However, the new Biden administration said it plans to review the US-Taliban agreement signed last year.

NATO’s presence in Afghanistan is however still undecided but will be discussed during the defense ministers meeting later this month.