NATO Secretary-General says it is too early to speculate on what kind of consequences a possible peace agreement with the Taliban will have in the situation in Afghanistan.
Addressing a joint news conference with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at the NATO headquarters on Friday, Jens Stoltenberg said that the situation in Afghanistan is still “difficult”, but he emphasized that the best way to help to stabilize the country is to train the Afghan forces and build local capacity.
He said NATO strongly supports the ongoing peace efforts to find solution to the crisis in Afghanistan and that welcomes the talks between the U.S. and the Taliban.
“We hope that can lead towards a process which includes, of course, the Afghan government,” Stoltenberg said.
“The way NATO supports those efforts is of course to support the Afghan government: political support, practical support, and also through our military presence, because the purpose of our military presence in Afghanistan is to send a message to the Taliban that they will not win on the battlefield. So, they have to sit down at the negotiating table and find a political solution,” he said.
He believed a political solution, a peace agreement in Afghanistan, would also address the issue of the presence of troops from other countries, including NATO. However, he explained, it was much too early to speculate exactly what kind of consequences that would have.
“We are ready to continue a partnership, cooperation with Afghanistan and our presence is conditions-based and of course, a new peace agreement will have an important consequence for NATO presence in Afghanistan.”
In part of his speech, Stoltenberg hailed New Zealand’s contribution to the Afghan National Army in training and education.
Stoltenberg acknowledged New Zealand was supporting the NATO mission in Afghanistan, saying the alliance had many partners working together in Afghanistan.
He said the alliance wanted to make sure Afghanistan did not once again become a safe haven for international terrorism. “We saw the consequences back in 2001, when the 9/11 attacks on the United States were organised and planned, from Afghanistan.”
Not many years ago, the alliance had been part of a big combat operation, with more than 100,000 troops in a combat effort in Afghanistan, the secretary general continued.
“But the Resolute Support, which New Zealand is contributing to, is a train, assist and advice mission, helps the Afghans stabilise their own country and the Afghans are now taking over responsibility for security.
“And we highly value the contribution from New Zealand; the personnel from New Zealand are very committed, they are playing a key role in helping to educate and to build a national defence academy. And that’s the best way to help Afghanistan, and that is to help them develop their own forces, so they can create security in their own country themselves.”