On Tuesday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the military alliance plans to leave a “civilian diplomatic” presence in Afghanistan after its troops are pulled out.
“We are ending our military mission, but we are not ending our support to the Afghans,” Stoltenberg said after a meeting with NATO defense ministers. “So today, defense ministers discussed the way forward. We will continue our civilian diplomatic presence in Kabul.”
Stoltenberg said the “civilian” presence would provide “advice and capacity-building support” for the Afghan military. US officials have said that Washingtons plans to keep a diplomatic mission in Afghanistan, which could be used to justify leaving a small troop presence in the country. Last week, anonymous sources told The Sun that the US is considering leaving 600 Marines to protect its embassy, but at this point, nothing is confirmed.
With Western powers hoping to keep a diplomatic presence in Afghanistan, part of the plan is to keep the Kabul airport secure from the Taliban, which Stoltenberg mentioned Tuesday. “We are working on how to fund the provision of services enabling Allies and the international community to stay in Kabul, including support for the airport,” he said.
Stoltenberg also said NATO is looking into ways to train Afghan forces outside of the country. “We are also looking at how we can provide military education and training outside Afghanistan, focused on special operations forces,” he said.
Both the US and NATO will continue supporting the Afghan government financially. President Biden’s proposed 2022 Pentagon budget includes a $300 million boost in aid to Afghan forces, bringing the total of US military assistance for Kabul to $3.3 billion.
Last week, a report from The New York Times said the US and its coalition allies are on track to finish the withdrawal by early to mid-July, well before the September 11th deadline set by President Biden. On Tuesday, US Central Command said the “retrograde” process is somewhere between 30 and 44 percent complete, although the command is not disclosing troop numbers.