Although NATO has adjusted and changed the number of troops in Afghanistan over the years, Stoltenberg confirmed roughly 11,000 troops in Afghanistan, of which more than a half are non-US troops.
“It has been a gradual reduction and that has been possible because we have invested so much in training the Afghans,” said Stoltenberg in a statement. “We have enabled Afghans to protect their own country.”
“I strongly believe that the best way to stabilise Afghanistan is to train, assist, advise the Afghan security forces so they can be in charge, be responsible for their own country.” He added.
Addressing the February accord signed between the United States and the Taliban on troops withdrawal from Afghanistan, Stoltenberg said NATO is put in a tough situation to decide over a complete draw out from the country.
“Then, the main issue is that in the US-Taliban agreement, it is stated that all international troops, also NATO troops, should be out of Afghanistan by 1 May,” he elaborated the deal. “That’s the reason why we are now faced with a very clear decision, a very difficult choice to be made, which actually represents a dilemma for all of us.”
While efforts by the Afghan government and the Taliban delegations are underway in Doha since September 11, NATO is skeptic about potential peace deal between the two warring sides, saying their assessment suggest Taliban are not committed to peace and prosperity in Afghanistan.
“… We assess that Taliban is not living up to their part of the agreement, not delivering on their promises, but then, of course, risk continued fighting, long-term continued military involvement in Afghanistan; or to leave, but then risk jeopardising the gains we have made in fighting international terrorism and preventing Afghanistan from being a platform for launching attacks against our countries,” he exclaimed.
When questioned about the President-elect Joe Biden’s approach of dealing with February accord, Stoltenberg said he had an “excellent phone call” with democrat President-elect, adding “Biden as a very committed supporter of the cooperation, the bond between North America and Europe and of NATO.”
“I’m looking forward to working with him and also with Kamala Harris, the Vice- President-elect. And they have both expressed strong support to NATO,” he said. “After the transition in January, we are, of course, working with the incoming Biden administration. We will then work with what is then going to be the Bide.”
According to Stoltenberg, NATO had more than 100,000 troops in a big combat operation. Then have gradually reduced its presence and now are roughly 11,000 troops in a Train, Assist and Advise mission. More than half are non-US troops coming from European NATO Allies and partner nations.