NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said no decision was made during Thursday’s meeting of the alliance’s defense ministers on whether or not NATO will leave Afghanistan. Under the US-Taliban peace deal signed last year, all foreign forces are due to leave Afghanistan by May 1st.
“At this stage, we have made no final decision on the future of our presence,” Stoltenberg said. “As the May 1st deadline is approaching, NATO allies will continue to closely consult and coordinate in the coming weeks.”
Stoltenberg has hinted at staying in Afghanistan, accusing the Taliban of not living up to their end of the deal. But one commitment the Taliban has lived up to is a pledge not to attack US or other coalition forces. But if the foreign troops remain, the Taliban will almost certainly start attacking them again, something even Stoltenberg admits.
“If we stay beyond the first of May, we risk more violence, more attacks against our own troops,” the NATO chief said. February 8th marked the first full year since the war started in 2001 that no US troops died in combat in Afghanistan.
Stoltenberg added that US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin vowed to consult with allies and partners on the Afghanistan situation. The Biden administration is currently reviewing the US-Taliban deal and is expected to make a decision in the coming weeks.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Wednesday to discuss the review of the administration’s Afghanistan strategy. “The Secretary reiterated America’s commitment to support the peace process, aiming for a just and durable political settlement and permanent and comprehensive ceasefire,” a readout of the call on the State Department’s website says.
While no decisions were made on Afghanistan, Stoltenberg announced a NATO escalation in a different country. He said the alliance will increase its troop presence in Iraq from about 400 to 5,000 as part of NATO’s training mission in the country.