Wednesday, February 24

NATO, caught in the Afghan hornet’s nest, does not find a way to an orderly withdrawal


Correspondent in Brussels

Updated:

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NATO defense ministers have not been able to confirm whether it will be possible to fulfill the commitment to withdraw all allied troops from Afghanistan on May 1, due to the increase in violence in the country. At the end of two days of virtual meetings, the NATO Secretary General Jens StoltenbergHe insisted on Thursday that the best solution “is to re-energize the peace talks” between the Afghan government and the Taliban, “so that all actors can agree and find a platform that is the basis for a durable peace. The difficulty is that we are in a situation in which we have the May 1 deadline approaching, the negotiations are fragile and are not moving forward, and we are concerned about the growing level of violence. And that is why we have not made a final decision as we believe that there is still time to find an agreement before May 1 ».

The departure from Afghanistan of all allied troops on May 1 was a compromise reached in Doha last year in negotiations between the Taliban and the United States to end 17 years of Western military presence in that country. However, in that same pact the Taliban insurgents promised to reach an agreement with the Afghan authorities, to stop their terrorist attacks and stop supporting Al Qaida. For now, negotiations are stalled and violence has continued to increase. What’s more, this year the usual spring offensive has come ahead and before the arrival of good weather the attacks have already begun.

The departure from Afghanistan of all allied troops on May 1 was a compromise reached in Doha last year in negotiations between the Taliban and the United States.

From Kabul, the general norteamericano Scott Miller, head of the allied troops in Afghanistan, declared this week that at the moment “the violence of the Taliban is much greater than in other years, which does not create the conditions to advance in what is expected to be a historical turning point for this country”. Miller assured international media that the fighting now was an indicator that there would not only be a spring offensive, something that would be radically against the Doha agreement, but that it could be more intense than before. Precisely these days the negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban that should continue in Doha have stalled and the Taliban leaders have left Qatar a few weeks ago, something that the US State Department knows perfectly well.

From Brussels, the Allied Secretary General recalls that one of the conditions for withdrawal is that the Taliban “Negotiate in good faith” with the Kabul authorities. But there General Miller insists that “if violence is not reduced, the peace process will be very, very difficult because it would be very difficult for either party to reach the necessary compromises.”

Stoltenberg has assured that the new US defense secretary, retired general Lloyd Austin, has promised not to act unilaterally and to arrange with the rest of the allies the withdrawal of the 10,000 soldiers that remain on the ground. Of that contingent 2,500 are North Americans, 1,500 Germans and the rest of European allies or associated countries. Spain currently maintains a symbolic presence of less than 30 military personnel after more than a decade of participation in the NATO effort. Since January 2015, the allied troops in Agfanistan no longer participate in combat missions, but are dedicated to training and assisting the Afghan army to improve its effectiveness in the fight against the Taliban. Until 2024, NATO will continue to finance the agfan armed forces.

Risk of attacks

When asked about the eventuality that a prolongation of NATO’s military presence in the country after May 1 would lead to a resumption of attacks against its bases, the NATO Secretary General is confident that in any scenario, including the From an increase in violence, “we will do everything necessary to protect our troops, but I am not going to speculate because our concern is to make sure that there is a lasting political agreement that makes our withdrawal possible without undermining our objective of that Afghanistan is not a haven for terrorists. The Afghan forces are perfectly capable of maintaining stability and we remain committed to supporting them. “Nobody pretends to say it will be easy,” he said. “It is a very complicated dilemma because if we stay beyond May 1, we run the risk of an increase in attacks on our troops, but if we do not leave without conditions, then what can happen is that all the advances of these years get lost and Afghanistan once again a haven for terrorists. ‘

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