Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin met with NATO ministers on Thursday and discussed the war in Afghanistan and the approaching May 1st deadline for all foreign forces to leave as per the US-Taliban peace deal. While no decisions were made on the pullout, Austin assured his NATO counterparts that there will be no “hasty” end to the almost 20-year-old war.
According to a statement from the Pentagon, Austin “reassured Allies that the US would not undertake a hasty or disorderly withdrawal from Afghanistan.” He also reiterated that the Biden administration is conducting a “thorough review” of the US-Taliban agreement.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said after the meeting that no decision was made on whether or not the alliance is planning to leave before May. While NATO and the US claim the Taliban hasn’t lived up to its end of the agreement, one pledge the Taliban did stick with was not attacking the US or other coalition forces in Afghanistan.
February 8th marked the first full year since the war started that no US soldiers died in combat in Afghanistan. Stoltenberg recognized that if foreign troops remain after May 1st, they will likely be targeted again by the Taliban. “If we stay beyond the first of May, we risk more violence, more attacks against our own troops,” he said.
Stoltenberg also announced on Thursday an increase of NATO troops in Iraq from 500 to about 4,000, which the US seems happy about. “Secretary Austin welcomed the expanded role for NATO Mission Iraq,” the Pentagon said.