BRUSSELS, 17 (EUROPA PRESS)
The Secretary General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, has warned the United States on Tuesday of the “high cost” of leaving Afghanistan too soon or in an uncoordinated way, after in recent days the voices have grown that the president, Donald Trump, could give order this week to accelerate the withdrawal in Afghanistan and Iraq ahead of his departure from office on January 20, 2021.
In a statement, Stoltenberg has indicated that he maintains close contact with the United States regarding the mission in Afghanistan. “We have been in Afghanistan, side by side, for almost 20 years and no ally wants to stay longer than necessary,” he said about a possible withdrawal.
However, he has warned that “the price of leaving the country too soon or in an uncoordinated way can be very high.” According to US media, the Department of Defense has sent a “warning order” to several commanders to begin planning the withdrawal, which contemplates the withdrawal of soldiers until there are 2,500 left in both countries by January 15, 2021. In these moments there are 4,500 military personnel in Afghanistan and 3,000 in Iraq.
NATO has defended in recent months its commitment to dialogue between the Kabul government and the Taliban, insisting that its presence in Afghanistan will respond to developments on the ground. Although he has sent messages in favor of a reduction in troops – the military organization currently maintains 12,000 troops in the country – Stoltenberg has also warned that Afghanistan is at risk of being “once again a platform for international terrorism. “, where attacks against Western powers can be organized.
“NATO allies support the peace process. As part of that process we have already adjusted our presence significantly. We have repeated that we will continue to review the number of troops,” he added in the statement.
The Norwegian politician stressed that less than half of NATO’s troops in Afghanistan are American and that, even if Washington withdraws more troops, the Alliance will continue until 2024 with its mission of training, advising and assisting Afghan forces.
In his statement, the NATO political chief ended by recalling that the allies decided to go to Afghanistan together and, “when the time is right”, they will make the decision to withdraw together in a coordinated and orderly manner. “I count on all NATO allies to maintain this commitment, for our own security,” he has settled.
The decision on the “warning order” to several commanders to begin planning the withdrawal would have been adopted after the US president fired last week the head of the Pentagon, Mark Esper, who opposed this early withdrawal. Esper’s cessation led to the cascading resignation of the civilian leadership of the Department of Defense.
Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller said in a message published on Friday that Washington must continue its fight against Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations, although he opted for a withdrawal. “The war is not over,” he said, while maintaining that “all wars must end.” “We gave everything. It’s time to go home,” he settled.
The agreement signed by Washington and the insurgent group contemplated the withdrawal of 8,600 US military personnel within 135 days of the signing and the total withdrawal of troops within 14 months.
The number of US troops in Afghanistan was already reduced to 8,600 in July, as part of the agreement that Washington and the Taliban signed on February 29, which opened the door to a process of direct talks between the insurgents and the Afghan government that it is already underway in the capital of Qatar.