WASHINGTON – NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance has not yet decided whether to withdraw the remaining 10,000 troops from Afghanistan by May this year, as stipulated in the US-Taliban peace agreement.
“The level of violence must be reduced, and the Taliban must end cooperation with international terrorist organizations that are planning terrorist attacks in our countries,” Stoltenberg told reporters at the end of a two-day virtual meeting of NATO defense ministers.
Last February, the United States entered into an agreement with the Taliban aimed at a permanent ceasefire and a reduction in the US military presence. According to its terms, by May 2021, all foreign forces must leave the country.
“Our goal is to ensure that there is a lasting political agreement that will allow us to leave without undermining our primary goal, which is to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a terrorist haven again,” Stoltenberg said.
“Therefore, we will continue to assess the situation before making a final decision about our future,” he added.
There are now about 2,500 American troops in the country.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told NATO members that the Joe Biden administration is “conducting a thorough review of the terms of the US-Taliban agreement to determine whether all parties are complying with those terms,” the Pentagon said in a press release.
“He assured allies that the United States would not agree to a hasty or indiscriminate withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan,” the statement said.
The Pentagon has previously said that the reduction of US troops in Afghanistan will be contingent on Taliban compliance with the terms of last year’s peace deal.
The wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria have cost US taxpayers more than $ 1.57 trillion since September 11, 2001, according to a Defense Department report.
The longest-running conflict in American history began 19 years ago and cost the Treasury $ 193 billion, according to the Pentagon.
Stoltenberg also said Thursday that the alliance has decided to expand its mission to train security forces in Iraq, agreeing to increase its presence from 500 to about 4,000.
“Our presence depends on the conditions in the country and the increase in the number of troops will be gradual,” he said, adding that the request for the expansion of the mission came from the Government of Iraq.