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Full Text of Ariana News’ Exclusive Interview with NATO Secretary General

Ariana News

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(Last Updated On: June 7, 2017)

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, in an exclusive interview with Ariana News in Brussels, elaborated his views on NATO mission and the alliance troop levels in Afghanistan as well as strengthening the capabilities of Afghan national army and security forces.

The following is the full text of Ariana News’ exclusive interview with Stoltenberg:

What is the outcome of NATO leaders meeting, especially in Afghanistan?

We agreed on an action plan on fighting terrorism and warm element of that plan is that we will sustain our military mission in Afghanistan. As we know it is not a combat mission anymore but is a train, assist and advise mission and all allies pledged to continue to support the mission and some allies also announced that they are ready to provide more forces. This about training the Afghan national security forces to stabilize Afghanistan and to fight Taliban and terrorism. NATO provides support both with our trainers but also with funding and economic support the Afghan national army and security forces.

About the increase of troops, is there any exact number that how many troops will be deployed to Afghanistan?

We are not in the process of deciding the exact number of troops. Currently, is around 13,000 troops,… so likely within not so many weeks, we have decisions on the exact troop levels.  Our military commanders have asked for an increase of a few thousand and that is what we are now looking into, but what is clear, is that we will continue to be in Afghanistan and we are also supporting the roadmap of President Ghani and so we have a more multi-air approach to our presence in Afghanistan, and we have also clearly committed to continue over several years to fund Afghan national army and security forces.

NATO to join Ant-IS Coalition, and as you know IS or Daesh is active in Afghanistan as well, What will be the role of NATO in combat against Daesh in Afghanistan?

What NATO does is that we are training, enabling and supporting the Afghan forces to fight terrorist groups in Afghanistan, so have seen that the Afghan forces are very professional, dedicated and have been able to attack  the terrorist groups including ISIS several times and therefore, ISIS has been forced to reduce their presence in Afghanistan, they are controlling less and less or they are present in very small parts of Afghanistan but it is still something we have to take very seriously. That is part of why NATO continue to support the Afghan armed forces and of course the United States is a NATO ally but outside the NATO mission, the United States also conduct counter-terrorism operations in cooperation with the Afghan army.

Afghan air force is still a big shortage, as you know that they are weak and they are not well equipped. Is there any plan for recruiting the Afghan air forces?

Yes, absolutely, one of the reasons why we have decided to sustain our mission and one of  the issue  stood and that is addressed in what we called it the periodic mission review (the review of our mission), is the importance of strengthening the Afghan air forces and we have some good numbers, we have seen an increase number of air planes, helicopters, and pilots. I met some female pilots Afghan trained in the air force when I visited Afghanistan lost time and NATO will focus on what we can do to further strengthen the Afghan air forces which is a key capacity or capability in the fight against the Taliban and the terrorist groups in Afghanistan.  We are also focusing on strengthening further the special operational forces, they have proven extremely valuable and important in Afghanistan, so we are going to help to train and educate more special operational forces that is actually started already and we are also focusing on the leadership, strengthening the military academies to improve command, control and leadership in the Afghan army which includes the fight against terrorism.

There are some reports about corruption, especially in the ANDSF system of Afghanistan, for example ghost police and ghost army. Are you satisfied from the reforms which are underway inside ANDSF in Afghanistan?

It is extremely important to fight corruption and therefore, welcome the very strong commitment by the National Unity Government, by President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah to fight corruption and I welcome also the establishment of  anti corruption center which will be an important tool to address the big problem of corruption which we have to fight and address. I also welcome for instance the introduction of biometric identification which will help us really to address this problem of ghost soldiers. Corruption is really really negative for the capacity of Afghan army and of course in long-run undermines the willingness of the international community to provide financial support.

 Last Question is about the local governors in the north of Afghanistan, who are claiming that Russia is supporting the Taliban, is there any evidence with NATO or what is NATO position here?

I have seen media reports of that kind of support but I haven’t seen any evidence. The important thing now is to focus on the peace process on an Afghan-led and Afghan -owned peace process, and I welcome the initiative by President Ghani to host a meeting in the beginning of June which will be an important contribution to an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process.

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NSA warns of Taliban’s intent to ‘seize power’ once foreign troops leave

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(Last Updated On: January 15, 2021)

National Security Advisor Hamdullah Mohib said on Friday the Taliban wants to seize power by forcing the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan.

Mohib also accused the Taliban of wasting time in Doha, saying the developments around the talks show that the Taliban wants to seize power by force. 

According to him, the Afghan government will prepare for war against the Taliban if negotiations fail.

Mohib’s statement comes the same day as Washington announced its troops now number only 2,500 in Afghanistan – as per the US-Taliban conditions-based agreement signed in February last year.

According to the agreement, the remainder of their troops will be pulled out by May but only if the Taliban meet the conditions – which include cutting all ties with al-Qaeda. 

“The Taliban are not looking for peace, they are wasting their time, and they are thinking of creating opportunities for them after the withdrawal of foreign forces; to take the government by force and to establish their rule by force here, although it is not practical,” Mohib said.

Meanwhile, sources in Doha said the head of the Taliban’s negotiating team has returned to Qatar and talks on the agenda are expected to resume on Saturday.

“Their [Taliban] return means that the talks are going on and they have not stalled. But the problem [on the agenda] remains,” said Tahir Khan, a Pakistani freelance reporter.

Sources in Doha confirm that the two sides differ vastly with regards to what the agenda should be based on. 

“I think the Taliban are proposing dialogue on an Islamic State and the government is proposing a ceasefire; this will be a bit difficult because the differences between the two sides are huge,” said Sayed Akbar Agha, a former Taliban member.

The second round of talks started just over a week ago and in that time the Republic’s team has met with the Taliban team only three times and have not reached consensus on an agenda. 

Although the delegation of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan has told the Taliban that its priority is a ceasefire, the Taliban have not officially stated what their priority is yet.

The Taliban’s political office in Doha also said talks had not stalled and were under way between the negotiating parties but that smaller groups had been holding discussions. 

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American troops down to 2,500: US acting defense secretary

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(Last Updated On: January 15, 2021)

The number of US forces in Afghanistan has dropped to 2,500, US acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller announced on Friday in a statement released by the US Department of State.

“Today, US force levels in Afghanistan have reached 2,500. Directed by President (Donald) Trump, and as I announced on November 17, this drawdown brings US forces in the country to their lowest levels since 2001,” Miller said in the statement.

Miller also welcomed ongoing peace talks in Doha.

“Today, the United States is closer than ever to ending nearly two decades of war and welcoming in an Afghan-owned, Afghan-led peace process to achieve a political settlement and a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire,” Miller added.

According to Miller, the remaining troops with commanders will have the duty to keep the US, Americans, and their interests safe.

Miller said that the United States will continue its mission in Afghanistan and will continue supporting Afghan forces to ensure that Afghanistan is never again used to harbor terrorists.

“Working alongside our NATO allies and partners, the United States will continue to execute both our counterterrorism mission and the train, advise and assist mission in support of Afghan Security Forces working to secure peace in their country. Continued fulfillment of these two complementary missions seeks to ensure that Afghanistan is never again used to harbor those who seek to bring harm to the United States of America,” said Miller.

Miller also said that the force reduction is an indication of the United States’ continued support towards the Afghan peace process and commitments made in both the US -Taliban agreement and the US -Afghanistan Joint Declaration.

According to Miller the further reduction of US troop levels to zero by May of 2021, remains conditions-based.

Miller also called on both the Afghan government and the Taliban to demonstrate their commitment to advance the peace process.

The United States will continue to take any action necessary to ensure the protection of our homeland, our citizens, and our interests, Miller said.

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Kunduz worshipers storm radio station on orders of Imam

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(Last Updated On: January 15, 2021)

Mohsen Ahmadi, the director of a local Kunduz radio station, Zohra, said on Friday that a number of worshipers stormed the radio station after the Imam at a mosque gave worshipers the orders to do so.

According to Ahmadi, the attack occurred after the Imam claimed music, broadcast by the radio station, was mixing with the mosque’s sound system and being broadcast over his loudspeakers. 

Ahmadi said the worshipers destroyed the radio’s broadcasting equipment. 

He said the mosque’s Imam did not know where the interference was coming from but gave the worshipers orders to storm the radio station. 

Ahmadi has called on local authorities and organizations that protect the media to investigate the incident. 

Sources meanwhile said the mob also tried to destroy two other radio stations in the city – Radio Kaihan and Radio Chiragh – but they were prevented from doing so by security forces. 

Local officials have not yet commented. 

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