NATO allies announced on Wednesday their decision to begin the withdrawal of their forces engaged in the “Resolute Support” mission in Afghanistan by May 1, in an Alliance statement.
“This withdrawal will be orderly, coordinated and deliberate. We expect that the withdrawal of all American forces and those of the mission will be completed in a few months, ”said the statement released after the announcements of US President Joe Biden.
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“We do not believe that the maintenance of an indefinite military presence in Afghanistan is in our interest, neither in that of the United States, nor in that of NATO and our allies”, explained the chief of the American diplomacy. Antony Blinken during a press conference at Alliance headquarters with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and NATO boss Jens Stoltenberg.
The allies gave their support to the US decision during a video conference that brought together foreign ministers and defense ministers from NATO member countries. Their statement does not mention the date of September 11 for the end of the withdrawal announced by Joe Biden.
“The ministers have decided to put an end to the Resolute Support mission, aiming for a complete withdrawal by September 11, 2021”, however specified the head of Luxembourg diplomacy Jean Asselborn. The Grand Duchy has engaged 2 soldiers in Afghanistan.
“It’s not an easy decision to make. And it carries risks, ”stressed Jens Stoltenberg. “As I have said for many months, we are faced with a dilemma. Because the alternative to a good start is to prepare for a long-term, limitless military engagement, with potentially more NATO troops. ”
However, some allies have raised concerns. “The announcement of our military withdrawal a few days before the peace conference on Afghanistan scheduled for April 24 in Istanbul could have the consequence of reducing the pressure on the Taliban, therefore potentially less inclined to seek an agreement. With the Afghan government, said Belgian Foreign Minister Sophie Wilmès. Belgium has engaged 72 soldiers in Afghanistan in Operation Resolute Support. The position expressed by Belgium is shared by several NATO members, a diplomatic source said.
An “energetic response” promised in the event of an attack
“Any Taliban attack on Allied troops during the withdrawal will face a vigorous response,” NATO warned in its statement. “We will continue to support” the peace process in Afghanistan and we “welcome” the Istanbul peace conference to be held between April 24 and May 4 as “an opportunity to advance” this process, the statement continued. .
The countries most involved in Afghanistan are the United States, Germany, Turkey, the United Kingdom and Italy. These five countries have deployed 6000 of the 9592 soldiers engaged by 36 NATO member countries and partners such as Ukraine (10 soldiers) in the NATO operation “Resolute Support”.