NATO concludes ministerial meeting with no decision on pullout from Afghanistan

Friday, 2021-02-19 10:47:50
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NATO soldiers inspect the site of a suicide attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sept. 24, 2017. (File photo: Xinhua)
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Defense ministers from members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) concluded their two-day meeting in Brussels on Thursday with no consensus reached on whether or when to pull out of Afghanistan.

"As the May 1 deadline is approaching, NATO allies will continue to closely consult and coordinate in the coming weeks," Jens Stoltenberg, the alliance's secretary general, told a press conference.

The United States and the Afghan Taliban signed an agreement in late February 2020, which specified a withdrawal of "all military forces of the United States, its allies, and Coalition partners" from Afghanistan by May 2021 if the Taliban meets the conditions of the deal, including severing ties with terrorist groups and conducting meaningful negotiations with the Afghan government and other stakeholders.

"The problem is that we are in a situation where we have a date -- 1st of May -- approaching, and so far we have seen that the peace talks are fragile," he said.

The United States now has 2,500 troops remaining in Afghanistan, about one fourth of the total NATO personnel stationed there.

"We are faced with very hard and difficult dilemmas," Stoltenberg admitted. "Because, if we stay beyond 1st May, we risk more violence, we risk more attacks against our own troops, and we risk, of course, also to be part of a continued presence in Afghanistan: that will be difficult. But, if we leave, then we also risk that the gains we have made are lost ..."

Reports said the Taliban has issued warnings of more attacks if the May 1 deadline is not met.