NATO Chief Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday said the alliance will not stay longer than necessary in Afghanistan, but reiterated that NATO’s presence in Afghanistan was aimed to create the conditions for a peaceful and negotiated solution to the ongoing conflict in the country.
“As we have said many, many, many times, we are in Afghanistan to create the conditions for a peaceful, negotiated solution,” Stoltenberg reiterated. “We are there to train and assist and advise the Afghan soldiers so they can take care of security and stability in Afghanistan themselves.”
He said that US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad has briefed NATO allies about the process and the reason why NATO is in the country is to make sure that Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for terrorists.
“Then, we continue to stay with the United States in Afghanistan. We welcome the talks with Taliban,” the NATO chief said. “Ambassador Khalilzad briefed all allies a few weeks ago, and the reason why NATO is in Afghanistan is to create a condition for (inaudible) peaceful solution to make sure that Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for international terrorists and to send a message to Taliban that they will not win on the battlefield, so they have to sit down at the negotiating table, and therefore we are encouraged by what we see now, the progress and -- and talks with Taliban,” he added.
Meanwhile, Afghanistan’s Ministry of Defense (MoD) said military operations against the Taliban will continue simultaneously with peace efforts to bring the group to the table of negotiations with the Afghan government.
“We will take over enemy’s nests as we had promised to do so. You know that our champion commando forces proved it in Ab Band district in Ghazni. We will not allow the enemy to disrupt the peaceful life of our people,” said Acting Defense Minister Asadullah Khalid.
This comes two days after Ministry of Defense said it has decided to extend the basic military training period for members of the Afghan National Army (ANA) from 10 weeks to 12 weeks with the hope of lowering the high death toll among soldiers.
Earlier this week, President Ashraf Ghani told a panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos that a staggering 45,000 security force members had been killed since he took office in September 2014.
Meanwhile, Ghani on Tuesday met Alice Wells, the US’s Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs in Kabul where they discussed issues related to an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace, preparations for upcoming presidential elections, fight against terrorism and US South Asia strategy.
Khalilzad, who met with Afghan media in Kabul on Monday, said there is a “moment of opportunity for peace” and that he hopes Afghans will deal with the opportunity “urgently and positively”.
He said they made progress on vital issues and agreed “to agreements in principle on a couple of very important issues”.