Antony Blinken calls for Nato troops to withdraw from Afghanistan together

US Secretary of State says there should be a safe and co-ordinated pullback

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Nato troops should leave Afghanistan together, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, a day after it was announced American soldiers would leave the country by September 11.

"I am here to work closely with our allies, with the [Nato] secretary general, on the principle that we have established from the start: in together, adapt together and out together," Mr Blinken said at the headquarters of the alliance in Brussels.

He said Washington wanted a co-ordinated pullback with the alliance from Afghanistan, where about 2,500 US soldiers are in the country as part of a 9,600-strong Nato mission.

“Together, we went into Afghanistan to deal with those who attacked us and to make sure that Afghanistan would not again become a haven for terrorists who might attack any of us,” Mr Blinken said. “Together, we have achieved the goals that we we set out to achieve. And now it is time to bring our forces home.

“We will work very closely together in the weeks and months ahead on a safe, deliberate and co-ordinated withdrawal of our forces from Afghanistan,” he said alongside Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

After talks between Mr Blinken and Mr Stoltenberg, State Department spokesman Ned Price said the two leaders "discussed our collective future in Afghanistan, noting that, as we have consistently said, the Nato alliance went in to Afghanistan together, adjusted to changing circumstances together, and will leave together".

Germany’s defence minister said Nato is likely to follow the US in withdrawing all combat troops from Afghanistan by September 2021, while the UK government did not explicitly deny a report it would also follow the US move.

The foreign ministers of Britain, France, Germany and the US will hold talks on Wednesday about Afghanistan, tensions on the Ukraine-Russia border and the Iran nuclear deal.

A UK government representative said: "We are working closely with the US, Nato allies and partners to support a secure and stable Afghanistan.
"For there to be any chance of a lasting peace, the Taliban must engage meaningfully in a dialogue with the Afghan government.
"Any change to our security presence will be made in agreement with allies and after consultation with our partners."

Germany’s defence minister earlier underlined the importance of the alliance co-ordinating its Afghanistan planning with Washington.

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer was speaking ahead of a Nato defence and foreign ministers conference on Wednesday and after the US government announced it would pull back its soldiers from Afghanistan by the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

"We always said: we'll go in together, we'll leave together," Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer told German broadcaster ARD. "I am for an orderly withdrawal and that is why I assume that we will agree to that today.”

She said it was vital "for us in Nato to synchronise our planning with the US planning".

After withdrawing, Nato aims to rely on Afghan military and police forces for security, which they have trained and supported with billions of dollars in funding.