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

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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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Allies have the capabilities to strike from afar against terrorist threats: NATO

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(Last Updated On: October 21, 2021)

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday allies will discuss Afghanistan during Friday’s defence ministers meeting, which will be “the first opportunity for the ministers to engage in the lessons learnt process” launched by the organization.

NATO defense ministers are meeting Thursday and Friday in Brussels to chart the course for the alliance as it modernizes and adapts to a world dominated by strategic competition.

However, the discussions will also include Afghanistan, Stoltenberg said during a press conference Thursday. According to him “we are in the midst of the lessons learned process, I think it’s a bit early to draw final conclusions.”

He said the decision to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan had been “a very difficult dilemma” but after extensive rounds of consultations among all allies, “we agreed together to end our military presence in Afghanistan”.

Stoltenberg said the lesson learned process has to focus on both what did not work, but also what worked, and he said “we should recognize that we actually made significant achievements”.

“Our mission was not in vain. We prevented Afghanistan from being a safe haven for international terrorists, and prevented any attack against any NATO ally over 20 years.

“Now we will stay vigilant and preserve those gains. Not least by holding, using the leverage we have on the new Taliban (Islamic Emirate) regime to make sure that they live up to their commitments on terrorism, on human rights, and safe passage.”

“The international community has economic and diplomatic leverage over the Taliban (Islamic Emirate),” he said.

“Looking ahead, we must continue to stand together in the fight against international terrorism,” he said. “And in the margins of this ministerial, we will hold a meeting of the Global Coalition to Defeat Daesh [or the Islamic State group],” he said.

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IEA calls on US to unfreeze Afghanistan’s assets

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(Last Updated On: October 21, 2021)

Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) leaders called on the US to unfreeze Afghanistan’s assets during a news conference in Moscow on Wednesday night saying that the money is for the Afghan people.

“All countries, with almost one voice, called on the US to end its financial prohibitions on Afghanistan and to unfreeze Afghanistan’s assets because this money is for the Afghan people and they were receiving their salaries from it, and therefore the US has no right to freeze these funds,” acting IEA Minister of Information and Culture, Khairullah Khairkhwa, said.

Pakistan, China, Iran, India and former Soviet Central Asian states joined IEA officials at the Moscow meeting. The United States stayed away, citing technical reasons.

Acting Deputy Prime Minister Abdul Salam Hanafi meanwhile said at the meeting that the IEA would create conditions for women to work within the framework of Sharia law.

He also emphasized that the IEA does not represent a threat to any other country.

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UN sets up trust fund for ‘people’s economy’ in Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: October 21, 2021)

The United Nations said on Thursday it had set up a special trust fund to provide urgently-needed cash directly to Afghans through a system that would tap into donor funds frozen since the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) takeover in August.

Achim Steiner, the UN Development Programme’s (UNDP) administrator, said that Germany, a first contributor, had pledged 50 million euros ($58 million) to the fund, and that it was in touch with other donors.

“Discussions over the last few weeks have focused on how we do find a way to be able to mobilise these resources in view of the economic implosion that is now unfolding and the international community’s repeated commitment not to abandon the people of Afghanistan,” he told a news briefing.

This comes after US Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said on Tuesday he sees no situation where the IEA would be allowed access to Afghan central bank reserves, which are largely held in the United States.

The IEA has called for the United States to lift a block on more than $9 billion of Afghan central bank reserves held outside the country as the government struggles to contain a deepening economic crisis.

“We believe that it’s essential that we maintain our sanctions against the Taliban (IEA) but at the same time find ways for legitimate humanitarian assistance to get to the Afghan people. That’s exactly what we’re doing,” Adeyemo told the Senate Banking Committee.

Washington and other Western countries are grappling with difficult choices as a severe humanitarian crisis looms large in Afghanistan. They have been trying to work out how to engage with the IEA without granting them legitimacy, while ensuring humanitarian aid flows into the country.

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