NATO agrees on continued support in Afghanistan after military withdrawal

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NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg (File Photo)
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg (File Photo)

Brussels [Belgium], June 2 (ANI): At a NATO Foreign Minister's virtual meeting at Brussels on Tuesday (local time), Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that the organisation will continue to support Afghanistan's security forces even after the planned withdrawal this year of the alliance's 9,600 troops.

"A civilian presence in the capital Kabul will be maintained to provide advice to security institutions," said Jens Stoltenberg, reported UAE based news portal The National News.

"We are ending our military mission in Afghanistan, but we will continue to provide support to the Afghans," Stoltenberg said.

He said that NATO members were committed to decisions they made when announcing the alliance's military withdrawal from the country after almost 20 years.

The military alliance was also planning to provide out-of-country training for Afghan special forces, reported The National News.

"We will also help to support the Afghan security forces by now working on how we can provide out-of-country training, especially for the Afghan special operation forces," said Stoltenberg.

"We are working on how we can support critical infrastructure, including the continued running of the international airport," added Stoltenberg.

"This is of course important for NATO and NATO civilian staff in Kabul, but also for, overall, the larger international community."

Last month, NATO announced it would withdraw its forces from Afghanistan this year (September 2021), despite fears that the Taliban could regain power.

The talks also looked at how NATO could bolster its collective defence and protect vital infrastructure, reported The National News.

"We also discussed concrete ways to sharpen our technological edge and prevent technological gaps among allies," Stoltenberg said.

He told a press conference that NATO members were "considering [establishing] a defence innovation accelerator - a new centre to foster greater co-operation among allies on technology, underpinned with extra funding from nations that decide to participate".

Stoltenberg said there was a broad agreement that "additional resources" were needed to tackle the challenges faced by a more "unpredictable" and "contested world".

NATO has a "historic opportunity" to strengthen the transatlantic relationship, he added.

US President Joe Biden has sought to rebuild ties with NATO and the EU after four tumultuous years under former president Donald Trump, who was often critical of the alliance and member states.

"Of course, spending together is a way to invest in the bond between Europe and North America. NATO brings Europe and North America together every day," Stoltenberg said, as he urged member states to increase funding.

The Pentagon's Central Command, responsible for operations in Afghanistan and the Middle East, said that it had already completed up to 44 per cent of the US military's withdrawal, reported The National News.

Biden has set September 11 as the deadline for all US personnel to be out of Afghanistan, officially ending America's longest war, which began soon after the 9/11 attacks in 2001.

According to The National News, on Wednesday, the NATO chief will head to London for talks with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab. (ANI)