During a pre-ministerial press conference ahead of the two-day NATO defense ministers meeting in Brussels, Stoltenberg reaffirmed commitments to train, advice and assist Afghan forces in their bid to curb the Taliban.
“We are firmly committed to our Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan and the heads of state and government made last year a decision to continue our military presence in Afghanistan, to continue to provide funding for the Afghan National Army and Security Forces and to develop the political partnership with Afghanistan,” said NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg.
Stoltenberg further added that the foreign troops in Afghanistan will not allow the country again become a safe haven for terrorist groups.
“There are many different international terrorist groups today in Afghanistan and that is the reason why we have decided to continue to stay in Afghanistan with 13,000 troops,” he said. He adding that “best weapon they had in the fight against terrorism was to train and enable local forces to combat the scourge.”
He also noted, “Thanks to this support from NATO and NATO partners over a long period of years we have been able to build up a national army and security forces which is now responsible for security in Afghanistan themselves.
He said, “And I think if there’s any lesson learned from Afghanistan we should perhaps have started even earlier to train the Afghans enabling them to take over responsibility for the security of Afghanistan themselves. We have ended the combat mission, what we… what NATO is doing is to train, assist and advise and I for instance met with some pilots in the Afghan Air Force and it was great to see them being trained by NATO trainers enabling them to develop their own air force.”
At least 13,000 NATO soldiers still serve in Afghanistan out of which 9,800 are deployed by the US Army. It is expected that up to 8,000 US troops will continue their mission in Afghanistan.