Afghan security forces capable of defending own country: NSC

The Afghan National Security Council (NSC) said on Thursday the country’s security forces are capable of maintaining security in the country.

This comes just hours after US President Joe Biden and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced a full withdrawal of all foreign troops starting May 1.

According to them, all troops will be out of Afghanistan by September 11 – the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attack on the United States.

During his official announcement on Wednesday night Biden said: “It is time to end America’s longest war. It is time for American troops to come home from Afghanistan.”

He said the US will begin its withdrawal in May and that it will not be a “hasty rush to the exit.”

A spokesman for the NSC, Rahmatullah Andar, meanwhile said: “Now the international community also believes that 96 percent of operations are carried out by the Afghan forces.”

“We are in the frontline of the counter-terrorism war and defense and protection of this land and people and it is not a temporary responsibility but it’s our permanent obligation,” Andar said.

Both the US and NATO said however that while troops would be withdrawn, they would both look to continue providing financial help to Afghanistan – specifically regarding Afghan troops.

In a joint press conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels late Wednesday night with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Stoltenberg said NATO will continue to support Afghanistan but not by having troops on the ground.

He said all Allies agreed Wednesday to start withdrawing troops from May 1 but added the decision was one that “carries risks”.

However, he noted that should NATO forces come under attack by the Taliban during the withdrawal phase they would be met with force.

Blinken said that the Taliban now has a choice to make and that it’s in “no one’s interests to plunge the country into a civil war”.

He also said ultimately it will be the people of Afghanistan who decide their future. “They are the ones who have to decide.”

Asked about Afghans at risk by US withdrawal and opportunities for asylum-seekers, Blinken said the US has a commitment to those Afghans who worked with the US. He also said however that a withdrawal of troops does not mean an end to US commitment.

The defense secretary in turn said any attack on their troops during the drawdown will be responded to with force.

Austin said the US will seek to continue funding the Afghan Air Force and seek to fund security forces’ salaries but also said they know the Taliban will try to reverse gains made in the past 20 years and because of this a political settlement is needed.