KABUL – NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that the US is going to reduce military troop levels in Afghanistan but they are not going to leave. No NATO Ally would like to stay in Afghanistan longer than necessary. At the same time, if we leave too early, if we leave too hasty, we may risk losing all the gains we have made; and that’s a risky project.
Speaking to Halifax International Security Forum, Stoltenberg said that NATO would have to make the decision early next year on whether to stay or to leave Afghanistan. The US will continue to provide support to the other NATO Allies in Afghanistan, he said. Half of the troops in Afghanistan now are non-US – they are European Allies and also partner nations. He added that NATO is in Afghanistan to make sure that Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for international terrorists, a platform where terrorists can plan, organize, finance, launch terrorist attacks against our countries.
“So early next year, we need to make a very hard decision. That’s: whether we leave and risk to lose the gains we have made, but then at least we can be out of Afghanistan; or whether we stay and then continue to be involved in the very challenging and demanding military operation in Afghanistan,” Stoltenberg said.
Meanwhile, the US is expected to reduce its number of troops from 4,500 to about 2,500 before president trump leaves office in January while NATO has an estimated 11,000 troops still in Afghanistan.