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NATO ministers discuss Afghanistan mission amid U.S. withdrawal threat

NATO Defence Ministers on Thursday met to discuss the alliance’s military operation in Afghanistan, amid indications that the United States could withdraw some or all of its troops from the conflict-ridden country.

NATO’s Resolute Support mission aims to train and advise Afghan security forces and help create the basis for a lasting peace in the country, after 18 years of conflict.

“Our mission in Afghanistan remains a top priority,’’ NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said at the start of Thursday’s session, on the second day of the ministers’ meeting in Brussels.

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Washington is currently engaged in efforts to negotiate a peace deal between the radical Islamist Taliban and the Afghan government, with a view to scaling back the U.S. military presence in the country.

We strongly support the efforts to reach a political, peaceful settlement. At the same time, no decision has been taken about any withdrawal

NATO allies would make decisions on the future of the mission together, based on conditions determined with the Afghans.

The aim is of course not to be in Afghanistan forever,’’ Stoltenberg noted. He added that the alliance is there to fight terrorism and help the Afghan National Army and security forces stabilise their own country.

There are fears within the alliance that a U.S. withdrawal could lead to setbacks in democracy and human rights in Afghanistan.

According to the latest official data, NATO has almost 17,000 troops stationed in the country, almost half of them are U.S. soldiers.

The ministers will also discuss NATO missions in Iraq and Kosovo. (NAN)