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NATO chief says decision to stay or leave will be made in February

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(Last Updated On: December 2, 2020)

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday night elaborated on his comment earlier this week about troops withdrawal and said NATO and its allies will “face a turning point early next year.”

Addressing a virtual press conference after the first day of the meetings of NATO Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Stoltenberg said ministers discussed NATO2030 and how to further adapt the Alliance for the future and addressed the situation in Afghanistan.

“NATO supports the Afghan peace process. And as part of that, we have adjusted our presence. While the United States has decided to further reduce its troop numbers to 2,500, NATO’s training mission continues. And over half of our forces are, now, non-US. 

“Ministers made clear that all Allies remain committed to the mission. And to supporting Afghan security forces in the fight against terrorism. As we continue to assess the situation in Afghanistan, it is clear that we will face a turning point early next year,” he said.

“If we stay, we risk continued fighting. And an even longer-term engagement.

 “If we leave, we risk Afghanistan once again becoming a safe haven for international terrorists. And the loss of the gains made with such sacrifice.

“So there is a price for staying longer. But there is also a price for leaving too soon. We will have to take some hard decisions when NATO defense ministers meet next February. 

“But whatever we decide, we must do it in a coordinated and orderly way,” he said. 

Stoltenberg however emphasized that although NATO is committed to continue supporting the Afghan security forces the organization and its Allies have “stated many times that we will not stay in Afghanistan with our military presence for longer than necessary.”

He also said NATO and its Allies welcome that for the first time in two decades, there are now direct talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government.

“It’s far too early to say whether these talks will succeed, but they are the only path, they are the only real possibility, chance, for a political settlement of the crisis in Afghanistan.

“And, therefore, we will have to make an assessment next year about whether we deem the situation, what should I say . . . or the conditions in place for us to further reduce and eventually leave Afghanistan, or whether we have to stay.”

He said that is a decision NATO will take based on consultations between all NATO Allies. 

“The defense ministerial meeting in February will be an important meeting. And we have to remember that this is something that the whole of NATO and, actually, also several partners are part of.” 

He pointed out however that until this year the US, which is NATO’s biggest Ally, had the largest number of troops in Afghanistan over the years, but now the majority of the foreign troops in Afghanistan are from European Allies and partner countries – non-US troops. 

He again called on the Taliban to reduce violence but said this was just the first step. “What we need to see is a lasting peace agreement. And part of that has to be a ceasefire. So, the reduction of violence should only be the first step.”

 

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Donor countries pledge $1 billion to support emergency aid for Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: September 13, 2021)

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has announced that donors have pledged over $1 billion towards aid for Afghanistan – exceeding the hoped for amount of $606 million. 

Guterres’ announcement comes after Monday’s High-Level Ministerial Meeting on the Humanitarian Situation in Afghanistan. 

“This conference has fully met my expectations in relation to the solidarity with the people in Afghanistan,” Guterres said late Monday. 

Afghanistan stands on the brink of a growing humanitarian and economic crisis.

Earlier Monday Guterres, who hosted the meeting, said “the people of Afghanistan need a lifeline” during “their most perilous hour.”

Guterres also maintained that the country’s new rulers had pledged their cooperation “to ensure assistance is delivered to the people of Afghanistan.”

One in two Afghans do not know where their next meal is coming from, the UN chief explained, adding that “many people could run out of food by the end of the month, just as winter approaches”.

Guterres did not specify how much of the $1 billion in pledged funding would be distributed towards the UN emergency budget for the coming months, or what would be potentially provided later. 

However, a survey by the World Food Programme (WFP) found 93% of Afghans surveyed lacked sufficient food, many because they could not get access to cash to pay for items.

Even before the takeover by the Islamic Emirate, food circumstances in Afghanistan were dire. 

Mary-Ellen McGroarty, the WFP Country Director for Afghanistan said: “It’s critical for the humanitarian effort that in the greatest time of need, that the international community stands alongside the women and children and men of Afghanistan, whose lives have been upended through no fault of their own,” she said.

 

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US pledges additional $64 million in aid for Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: September 13, 2021)

U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad said on Monday night the United States has committed a further $64 million in humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan.

In a tweet late Monday, Khalilzad said: “The United States remains firmly committed to continue our robust humanitarian assistance for the people of Afghanistan.

“We are proud to announce an additional $64 million in humanitarian assistance,” he said.

According to a statement issued by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the funding is from both USAID and the U.S. State Department and the money will flow through independent organizations, such as UN agencies and NGOs.

This money will “provide life-saving support directly to Afghans facing the compounding effects of insecurity, conflict, recurring natural disasters, and the COVID-19 pandemic,” read the statement.

The organization said the additional funding will provide vulnerable Afghans with critically needed food, health care, nutrition, medical supplies, protection, hygiene supplies, and other urgently needed relief.

In addition, USAID stated it has activated a Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) – based outside of Afghanistan – to lead the U.S. Government’s humanitarian response.

“This team, which is based outside of Afghanistan, is working with partners to provide aid and adapt programs in response to the new environment,” the statement read.

The United States is the single largest humanitarian donor in Afghanistan, providing nearly $330 million this year alone.

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UN chief calls for urgent emergency aid for Afghanistan 

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(Last Updated On: September 13, 2021)

The international community should urgently offer a “lifeline” to millions of vulnerable Afghans “who face perhaps their most perilous hour”, the UN Secretary-General said on Monday at a special meeting in Geneva on the need for emergency aid for Afghanistan.

Leading the appeal in Geneva for $606 million to support emergency aid for 11 million people across the country, António Guterres said that even before the fall of the previous government, people were in the grip of one of the worst crises in the world.

“The people of Afghanistan need a lifeline,” he said. “After decades of war, suffering and insecurity, they face perhaps their most perilous hour. Now is the time for the international community to stand with them.”

Highlighting concerns over humanitarian access as needs rise dramatically, Guterres maintained that the country’s new rulers had pledged their cooperation “to ensure assistance is delivered to the people of Afghanistan. Our staff and all aid workers must be allowed to do their vital work in safety — without harassment, intimidation or fear.”

One in two Afghans do not know where their next meal is coming from, the UN chief explained, adding that “many people could run out of food by the end of the month, just as winter approaches”.

Speaking at the Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday, High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet stressed the extent of the humanitarian and economic crisis in Afghanistan.

At Monday’s meeting, the UN Secretary-General highlighted the need for food, life-saving interventions and essential health care for the people of Afghanistan.

And he insisted that “robust mechanisms” had been established to coordinate humanitarian efforts that were anchored in human rights.

UN emergency relief chief Martin Griffiths noted that he had received written assurances from leaders of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan to allow relief efforts to continue.

These guarantees followed his meeting with the Afghan government’s interim leaders in Kabul last week, where he urged the country’s new rulers to respect human rights and facilitate aid access.

Speaking from Kabul, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, underscored the high level of needs among Afghanistan’s 3.5 million displaced people, and the potential for even greater suffering.

Meanwhile, the head of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has underlined the urgent need to safeguard rural livelihoods and avoid massive displacement.

FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu called for funding to save Afghanistan’s next wheat harvest, keep farm animals alive, and avoid a deterioration of the country’s already severe humanitarian crises.

His agency is seeking $36 million to speed up support to farmers and ensure they will not miss the upcoming winter wheat planting season.   

FAO will also assist around 3.5 million Afghans, who depend on agriculture for their incomes, until the end of the year.

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister calls for sustained engagement

 Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi also addressed the ministerial meeting, via a video link, and called on the international community for sustained engagement with Afghanistan.

 According to a statement issued by Qureshi’s office, the Foreign Minister gave a report on the humanitarian support provided by Pakistan in recent days, including the facilitation of evacuations for foreigners, the establishment of a humanitarian corridor for the delivery of relief goods, among others. 

“He committed to continue Pakistan’s humanitarian assistance comprising food and medicines to Afghanistan as well as hosting more than three million Afghan refugees. 

“He called for international solidarity with the Afghan people, both in terms of financial and political support. He emphasized the need to renew developmental partnerships, support nation-building, and meet the humanitarian needs of the Afghan people,” the statement read. 

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