Cornelius Zimmermann told Deutsche Welle that the US’s conditions-based approach is in line with NATO’s stance on the war in Afghanistan.
NATO Envoy In Afghanistan Welcomes New US Strategy
NATO's top civilian representative in Afghanistan, Cornelius Zimmermann, spoke this week to Germany’s Deutsche Welle and said he welcomes the US’s new strategy for South Asia and that a conditions based approach was more in sync with NATO’s approach.
He said: “Like NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, I personally welcome the decision of the US government on its new South Asia strategy. I think it helps. A conditions-based approach is very much in sync with NATO's approach. We heard from a number of NATO member states and partners - more than a dozen - that they are planning to increase their participation in the Resolute Support Mission (RSM).
“I think that even a small increase will make a difference. I'm not responsible for our military planning, but still I'm working in very close cooperation with [RSM Commander] General [John] Nicholson.”
He went on to say: “The security situation is a challenge - that I admit. But the Afghan security forces are taking on this challenge and they're getting better day by day. We had a number of events in recent days in Kabul, for example the attack against the Iraqi embassy, and the Afghan security forces reacted very quickly, with advice from NATO special forces. So that definitely made a difference.”
Zimmerman pointed out that change will not come overnight in Afghanistan and that at times there is little progress “but it is important that we keep the momentum.”
“The Afghan security forces are getting more professional, their operations are becoming more effective, and they are getting the backing of the general public,” he said.
On the issue of rising civilian casualties, Zimmerman said that the UN clearly underlined that anti-government forces remain responsible for the vast majority of civilian casualties.
“Everyone is one too many and in its training programs, RSM stresses the importance of avoiding civilian casualties.”
“Ultimately we need a peaceful solution to the Afghan question and military means alone will not be able to bring about a lasting peace to this country,” he said.
He said that with the Taliban it was important to combine a "fight strategy" with a "talk strategy."
However he noted that more soldiers are probably going to mean more civilian casualties. “If the fighting intensifies things may get worse before they get better.”
He said Trump’s recent message was crystal clear. “The United States is backing NATO's conditions-based approach. The understanding of the Afghan people is that NATO will stand by them as long as this is matched by their efforts. And I think that's a very encouraging signal and that's something you can build your future on.”