Kabul: Even without the support of international troops, the Afghan security forces are strong enough to stand on their own feet and that time has come for Afghans to take full responsibility for peace and stability, said NATO Chief Jens Stoltenberg in an interview with the Associated Press.
Stoltenberg claimed that NATO had “invested heavily in blood and treasure in Afghanistan” as NATO deployed troops to Afghanistan in 2003, two years after a US invasion of the country. Fewer than 9,000 allied troops remain, including up to 3,500 US personnel, and they are scheduled to leave by Sept. 11 at the latest.
The NATO chief added that there can be a possibility of providing training to Afghan forces outside the country, but no decision has been made on this matter yet. This comes as US President Joe Biden and Stoltenberg will meet with the other leaders of the 30-nation military alliance on June 14 to discuss some of their big issues, including Afghanistan, although no Afghan leaders are due to attend the Brussels summit.
“There are risks entailed to the decision of ending NATO’s military mission in Afghanistan. We have been very transparent and clear-eyed about that,” he said, putting the onus on Afghan troops to take up the task. “Afghanistan has come a long way, both when it comes to building strong, capable security forces, but also when it comes to social and economic progress. At some stage, it has to be the Afghans that take full responsibility for peace and stability in their own country,” he said.
But as NATO troops leave, much of Afghanistan stands as contested ground even as Taliban has stepped up their offensive in the recent months and there is no clear peace agreement on the table yet