NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who presented his Annual Report for 2018 on Thursday, March 14, said the future of the alliance’s 15-year presence in Afghanistan will depend on the outcome of peace talks involving Taliban militants.
He said NATO has stepped up in the fight against terrorism, with a new training mission in Iraq, and more support for Afghanistan.
“And then depending, of course, on the outcome of these talks that will then create the basis for any decisions about the future presence. But it’s too early to pre-empt the outcome of the talks, simply because they haven’t been finalized. There’s still much to be done before we have a peace deal in place,” he said.
He said NATO strongly supports the peace efforts. “We welcome the talks that are taking place between the United States and Taliban. This is closely coordinated and consulted with the NATO Allies. Ambassador Khalilzad, the chief negotiator, he has been at NATO several times,” he said.
He said they are in close contact with US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad. “General Miller, the Commander for the NATO forces in Afghanistan. He visited the NATO headquarters recently, he also was present doing the negotiations in Doha. So, this is very closely consulted, the peace process, with all NATO Allies," he added.
“We went in together and we will make decisions of our future posture, presence in Afghanistan together. We are there to create the conditions for peace,” he said. “We are in Afghanistan to send a clear message to Taliban that they will not win on the battlefield. They have to sit down at the negotiating table.”
He said that the troop levels also depend on the outcome of the negotiations.
“We are in Afghanistan to prevent Afghanistan forever again becoming a safe haven for international terrorists,” he said. “And, of course, that’s one of the key issues which are now negotiated and addressed in the talks with Taliban.”
He said that the report provides “a lot of” information about Afghanistan.
“We actually have a chapter on projecting stability and how we are working, for instance, in Afghanistan to help to stabilize the country and to fight terrorism,” he said.