Support to Afghan Forces to Continue: Austin

Kabul: In a press briefing at the NATO headquarters in Brussels, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin said that he wholeheartedly supports President Joe Biden’s decision to end US’ longest war by September 11.

NATO invoked Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty in 2001 after al-Qaida — operating from bases in Afghanistan — launched an attack that killed more than 3,000 Americans. It was the first time the North Atlantic Alliance invoked the article which says an attack on one nation is an attack on all.

Austin thanked NATO service members for their sacrifices in this common defense. There are currently around 10,000 NATO forces in Afghanistan, with 2,500 of them being American. This is down from over 100,000 in 2011.

 

“Our troops have accomplished the mission they were sent to Afghanistan to accomplish,” Austin said.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the NATO effort in Afghanistan “prevented Afghanistan from serving as a safe haven for terrorist attacks.” He said pulling the troops out of the country will not mean the end of NATO nation’s efforts in Afghanistan. He cited diplomatic and economic efforts that will continue, and he called on the Taliban to seriously negotiate with the Afghan government.

The sacrifices made by NATO, partner nations and Afghan forces have enabled economic, civil and political progress in Afghanistan.

“There is still too much violence, to be sure. And we know the Taliban still seek to reverse some of this progress. That is why we support wholeheartedly the diplomatic efforts ongoing to achieve a negotiated and political settlement that the Afghan people themselves endorse,” he said.

The announcement comes even as a conference is scheduled on the Afghanistan peace roadmap starting on April 24 in Istanbul that would include the United Nations and Qatar. The Afghan government is ready with a unified plan, however, the Taliban has rejected coming to the negotiating table till all foreign troops have not been withdrawn from the country.

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Latest from Newsfeed; Thursday, April 15 2021