Nato’s Jens Stoltenberg offers full endorsement of US Afghanistan peace talks

Washington's Nato allies have been left out of negotiations with the Taliban

Jens Stoltenberg, Nato’s general secretary since 2014, said the organisation 'fully supports' US efforts to achieve peace in Afghanistan. Reuters
Jens Stoltenberg, Nato’s general secretary since 2014, said the organisation 'fully supports' US efforts to achieve peace in Afghanistan. Reuters

Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg has thrown the weight of the transatlantic alliance behind US efforts to negotiate a peace deal with the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Mr Stoltenberg, Nato’s general secretary since 2014, said the organisation "fully supports" US efforts to achieve peace in Afghanistan. The former Norwegian prime minister made the remarks as he met US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Brussels on Tuesday.

Mr Pompeo arrived in the Belgian capital at the start of a two-day visit where securing support from allies for the imminent peace deal between the US and the Taliban is at the top of his agenda.

The nations that backed Washington's 2001 intervention in Afghanistan – including Nato allies such as Britain, Canada, Germany and France – have been left out of the negotiations in Doha.

Following the ninth and most recent round of talks with the Taliban, Washington's senior negotiator said 5,000 US troops would withdraw from Afghanistan over the coming 135 days. In an interview with Afghanistan’s TOLOnews, Zalmay Khalilzad said the withdrawal would also lead the US to close five bases once the deal is signed by President Donald Trump.

Other details, such as how long the remaining 14,000 US troops would stay in Afghanistan after that, are unknown.

Earlier this month The Times reported that 1,200 British troops, within a contingent of 8,000 Nato troops currently in Afghanistan, would be obliged to stay until the very end of the withdrawal. The timetable for that withdrawal will be set by the US and the Taliban.

Although the deal to bring peace to Afghanistan is all but signed, fears remain that the Taliban, which is still plagued by internal rifts, could simply overrun areas such as the capital Kabul following the US and Nato’s departure.

These fears have been heightened by ongoing violence in Afghanistan. As Mr Khalilzad’s interview was broadcast the Taliban mounted a suicide bomb attack on a housing complex used by international organisations in Kabul, killing at least 16 people.

Interior Ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said the blast was caused by a tractor packed with explosives but the attackers, who planned to follow up the blast, were killed by the security forces.

About 400 foreign citizens were evacuated from the heavily protected site.

Updated: September 3, 2019 04:44 PM

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