In a pre-ministerial press conference on Monday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg stressed the presence of international troops in Afghanistan as condition-based, he said that NATO will not leave the country before the time is right.
“Our common goal is clear. Afghanistan should never again serve as a haven for terrorists to attack our homelands. So, our presence is conditions-based,” Stoltenberg said. While no ally wants to stay in Afghanistan longer than necessary, we will not leave before the time is right” said Stoltenberg.
“NATO has significantly adjusted our presence as part of the peace process,” he said.
Based on the unacceptably high level of violence in Afghanistan Stoltenberg said, “However, peace talks remain fragile and the level of violence remains unacceptably high, including the Taliban attacks on civilians. The Taliban must reduce violence, negotiate in good faith and live up to their commitment to stop cooperating with international terrorist groups,” he added, “No ally wants to stay in Afghanistan longer than necessary, but the threat of terrorism must be considered,”.
Stoltenberg expressed that NATO strongly is in favor of the peace process in Afghanistan and that it is the best opportunity for “a lasting political solution”.
Situational assessment on the ground will continue and developments are closely monitored, Stoltenberg indicated that NATO “will continue to take more measures to ensure the safety of our troops and consider next steps in a deliberate and coordinated way,” he said.
Stoltenberg reiterated that NATO’s priority is that Afghanistan does not become a haven for terrorists once again.
NATO’s main and only priority is that Afghanistan should not be transformed into a haven for terrorism again and to fight terrorists he added, “We also realize that one of the best weapons we have in the fight against terrorism is to train local forces,”.
Most of the Afghans are concerned over losing the gains the country achieved in the past two decades, Stoltenberg reaffirmed that “I hear the calls from many Afghans on not jeopardizing the gains… That’s the reason we should make the decisions very seriously.”