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PublishDate: Thursday, February 18, 2021 09:16

We will only leave when the time is right: Stoltenberg

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Wednesday night that NATO allies are working closely together on the troop withdrawal situation in Afghanistan and that the Alliance will discuss the issue on Thursday at the Defense Ministers meeting.

Afghan Voiice Agency (AVA)_“So what we can do now is to coordinate, consult. We are going to have a discussion tomorrow, I’ll not preempt the outcome of that discussion. But Allies are coordinating closely, all Allies, including, of course, the United States. And then we will make a decision together,” Stoltenberg said.
 
Addressing a virtual press conference after the first day of the Defense Ministers meeting, Stoltenberg said NATO’s withdrawal from Afghanistan is conditions-based.
 
“Our presence in Afghanistan is conditions-based. And Taliban has to meet their commitments. And what NATO does now is that we, first of all, do whatever we can to support the peace process and the full implementation of the deal.
 
“We will only leave when the time is right. And the focus now is how can we support the peace efforts, the peace talks, and re-energise, relaunch a new strength, a new momentum in the peace talks, because that’s the only path to peace.
 
“As you know, we went into Afghanistan together, , partners and the United States, after 9/11. We have made decisions on adjusting our presence together. And we will also make the decision, when the time is right, to leave together.
 
“So what we can do now is to coordinate, consult. We are going to have a discussion tomorrow, I’ll not preempt the outcome of that discussion. But Allies are coordinating closely, all Allies, including, of course, the United States. And then we will make a decision together,” Stoltenberg said.
 
He said: “I think the main issue is that Taliban has to reduce violence, Taliban has to negotiate in good faith, and Taliban has to break all ties, has to stop supporting international terrorist groups like -Qaeda.”
 
Stoltenberg also reiterated that NATO and the US would make a decision together on the withdrawal of troops.
 
He said this has been made clear by the new Biden administration.
 
“And I welcome the strong commitment and clear message from the United States that they will coordinate closely with NATO Allies and partners. We are 30 NATO Allies, but there are also partners like Finland, Sweden and others who are part of our NATO mission in Afghanistan,” he said.
 
“NATO Allies welcome that message from the United States, not least because there is a significant non-US presence in Afghanistan. There are roughly 10,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan now, and the majority of them are not from the United States.
 
“I think that demonstrates the value of NATO also for the United States, because the United States, when they went into Afghanistan, they didn’t go alone. They have been supported by NATO Allies with tens of thousands of troops for now close to two decades.
 
“This is a decision we only can make together. We are assessing together. We are analysing together. We are supporting the peace process together. We are calling on Taliban to reduce violence, to negotiate in good faith and to stop supporting international terrorists like al Qaeda.
 
“And then we will make the necessary decisions together. But I think the main focus now should be on re-energising the peace talks, because that’s the only way to a peaceful solution,” Stoltenberg said.

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