Stoltenberg says NATO facing a difficult choice over Afghanistan

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the Belgian Defence Minister Ludivine Dedonder met at NATO headquarters Thursday to discuss a number of issues including the future of NATO’s presence in Afghanistan.

According to a statement issued by NATO, Stoltenberg said NATO faces a difficult choice: Stay and face a continued military engagement or leave and risk that Afghanistan again becomes a safe haven for terrorists.

“The Taliban must honour their commitments: reduce violence and cut ties to terror groups. Instead we see unacceptable levels of violence by the Taliban, including against doctors, judges and journalists,” he said.

“We went into Afghanistan to prevent another 9/11. We have done that. Whatever path we now choose, we must ensure Afghanistan is never again a base for terrorism,” he added.

Stoltenberg and Dedonder also discussed the upcoming NATO Defense Ministers meeting, scheduled for February 17 and 18, where a decision on NATO’s future in Afghanistan is expected to be made.

This comes after Stoltenberg earlier voiced his concern over the high level of violence.

Addressing a press conference earlier this month Stoltenberg indicated that US and NATO would decide together on when to withdraw troops from Afghanistan.

He said “so, we will make the assessment together, we will make the decision together, and this will be one of the most important topics that will be discussed when we have a NATO Defense Ministerial meeting later this month and decisions will be made.”

This comes amid growing speculation that the US might not withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan by the 1 May deadline as per the agreement signed with the Taliban in February last year.